Alireza Karimi-Machiani
Alireza Karimi-Machiani

Alireza Karimi-Machiani thought he was going to win against his Russian opponent on Saturday, but then his coaches told him he had to lose.

The Iranian wrestler was fighting against Alikhan Zhabrailov at the Senior U23 World Championship in Poland, when he was "forced" to throw the match. The reason?

His next opponent would be an Israeli.

"In a moment, my whole world seemed to come to an end," the Iranian wrestler said, according to ABC News.

A clip of the match, shared by an Iranian sports news site, shows an interaction between Karimi-Machiani and his coach just before he lost the match. A voice can be heard telling the wrestler, "You have to lose" in Farsi, according to Euro News.

Iran does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel, standing as a staunch critic of Zionism and the oppression of the Palestinian people. The Islamic Republic forbids its athletes from competing against Israelis at international competitions, according to the BBC.

In a statement about the incident, Iran's sports ministry praised Karimi-Machiani for taking a stand for "human values."

Not everyone on social media agreed with the move however

"I feel that Alireza Karimi's trainer intentionally shouted 'Alireza lose', 'you need to lose', 'you must lose'. This was a sign for us to see the dirty people behind the curtain of his defeat. We needed to see how the dirty politics of a group of dirty people caused your efforts to be blown away in the wind."

A lot of opinions were shared

"A world in which the borders define humanity"

Of course, it's not the first time Arab or Iranian athletes have had awkward encounters with Israeli opponents.

Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with Israeli athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics, due to the reality that Lebanon remains at war with Israel and it is illegal for Lebanese to have interactions with Israelis. Also at the 2016 Olympics, an Egyptian judoku chose to fight an Israeli competitor but then refused to shake his hand when he lost, drawing international media attention.

However, in August, two Iranian footballers ignored their country's ban and competed against Israeli opponents with their Greek football club.