Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Iran forcing a wrestler to lose a bout in order to avoid competing against an Israeli perfectly summed up the regime’s hostility to the Jewish state.
“Close your eyes and think about Alireza for a moment. He trained countless hours; he dreamed of becoming a world champion. But the Iranian regime would rather see its athletes lose than compete against Israelis,” Netanyahu said in a video released on the prime minister’s Facebook page,
Last week wrestler Alireza Karimi-Mashiani was forced by his coach to throw his bout at a tournament because Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov would have been his second-round opponent.
Netanyahu called on the Iranian people to use social media to foster coexistence.
“I want you to film yourself playing a sport against someone of a different nationality, a different faith or different color. I want you to compete like hell – we’re all for competition,” Netanyahu said. “Then I want you to shake hands, go out for a drink together, and then upload this to the social media. I want you to show Iran’s regime that hating others will never make you a champion. It only makes you a pathetic and insecure loser.”
The Islamic Republic does not recognize the Jewish state, calling it the “Little Satan” — the United States is the “Great Satan” — and forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis.
Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi about to beat Russian, but will have to face Israeli next round. His coach his calling him from the sidelines, telling him to “lose.” Iran forbids its athletes to play Israeli’s. Iranian wrestler gives up. pic.twitter.com/nX9KHaH8Jn
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) November 27, 2017
The prime minister also said it was intolerable for a country to boycott another country in sport. “Just imagine, a government forbidding its athletes from competing against blacks, gays or Arabs,” he said.
The wrestler himself has acknowledged he was ordered to throw the fight and was very unhappy about it.
“In a moment, my whole world seemed to come to an end,” he said.
Karimi-Mashiani said that he was beating Russian Alikhan Zhabrailov when coaches told him to lose. “I tried hard for months to get the world gold medal,” he said. “Achieving a world medal is the only happiness for any of us.”
However, Karimi-Mashiani was praised for his “noble and heroic action” by the government as “a source of pride and praise,” while the country’s wrestling federation called him a “hero” and extolled his “sacrifice.”
Karimi-Mashiani’s bout was in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz on November 27, in the 86-kilo category of the under-23 world championships.