March 14, 2018
Efforts by Iranian wrestlers and Iran’s Wrestling Federation to lift the ban on facing Israeli athletes in the sports arena have fallen short of success. Rasoul Khadem, head of Iran’s Wrestling Federation rendered his resignation in protest to the ban on Iranian wrestlers to face Israeli opponents in international games. A special meeting was convened to convince Khadem to withdraw his resignation. Attempts to return him to his post failed after he left the session in further protest.
Islamic Republic authorities have barred Iranian athletes from vying against Israeli opponents in international sports events. The head of the country’s Wrestling Federation recently called on state organizers to reconsider the ban. Last week, he and all members of the Wrestling Council resigned their posts in protest to the government’s dismissal of their demands. Head of Mazandaran Wrestling Council announced two days later that efforts were being made to return Khadem to the Federation. However, Rasoul Khadem announced after leaving the meeting in protest: “Responsibility of the Wrestling Federation should go to someone who can carry out the duties in accordance with the language and opinions of the Ministry of Sports.” Khadem went on to accuse the ministry of mismanagement of national sports interests and urged the Federation to appoint someone more in tune with the politics of the Ministry of Sports to the helm of the Wrestling Federation.
Further reports indicate that Federation members have not accepted RasoulKhadem’s resignation. A spokesman for the Federation announced that Khadem can take a leave of absence and in the interim, the deputy head of the organization with carry out his duties. In response to questions regarding facing Israeli athletes, Massoud Riyazi said, the National Security Council decides about such policies, not the Federation. He added however “Khadem is not saying that the policy of not facing Israeli opponents should be reversed but rather that if it is being adopted, it should be announced and be upheld formally and honorably.”
Young Iranian wrestler, Alireza Karimi, in the under 23 wrestling competitions, while he was ahead 3 to 2 from his Russian opponent, was advised by his coaches to let his opponent win because a victory in that match would have him face an Israeli opponent in the final. Karimi described his feelings upon hearing the advice of his coaches saying: “I felt the whole world crashing down on my head.” He told ISNA that he was suddenly struck by how all his efforts and training, as well as time away from family, were wasted. This was the second time Karimi has lost the opportunity to vie for the gold medal. In 2013 similar circumstances held him from facing the Israeli wrestler in the finals.
Meanwhile, the International Wrestling Federation has announced that Iran will no longer be hosting the Greco-Roman Wrestling World Cup next month because of its restrictions on Iranian athletes facing Israeli athletes. Iran responded saying the Iranian national wrestling team will not participate in the Wrestling World Cup in the United States.
Iranian wrestlers have written an open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, urging him to reconsider the country’s policies regarding athlete restrictions in international games but they have received no response so far.