TEHRAN -- Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Saturday reasserted Iran’s stance on avoiding competitive sport with Zionists, and urged support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
Iran does not recognize the occupying regime of Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Zionist opponents, whether by forfeiting the match or by simply not participating.
But while their actions earn them praise from top officials back home, they have sometimes resulted in disciplinary measures from international bodies.
“The ruthless, genocidal and illegitimate Zionist regime is trying to gain legitimacy by participating in international sports arenas, and the world arrogance (the West) is helping it, but honorable sports officials and athletes should not stand idly by,” Ayatollah Khamenei said told a reception for Iran’s medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The Leader touched on the Israeli regime’s retaliatory measures, trying to have such refusniks suspended or banned.
Ayatollah Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined”.
The Leader was referring to Fethi Nourine who was suspended last week along with his coach for 10 years by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics after the draw set him on course for a bout against an Israeli.
Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Israel’s Tohar Butbul.
“A proud Iranian athlete cannot shake hands with a representative of a criminal regime for a medal and practically recognize it,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
“This issue has a precedent. In the past, athletes from other countries refused to compete with the representatives of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and after a while, that regime disappeared and the Zionist regime will also be destroyed.”
In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.
The Leader touched on the championship of Iranian athletes despite some restrictions.
“The fact that despite these restrictions, the country’s flag is raised and global rostrums are conquered, this is a sign of strong will and determination,” the Leader said.
“This determination, will, heroism and generation of hope exist not only in sports but also in the fields of science, technology, art and literature, and one of the important duties of the states officials
is to honestly show these honors,” he added.
Ayatollah Khamenei also said some displays of human, religious and spiritual values by Iranian athletes, such as praying, embracing their rivals, competing in full hijab and showing love for their national flag are very valuable.
“Iranian female athletes proved in these competitions that the Islamic hijab does not prevent them from shining in sports, just as they have already proved this in the fields of politics, science and management.”
Ayatollah Khamenei said the hijab of Iranian women athletes has paved the way for female athletes of other Islamic countries, adding athletes from more than 10 Islamic countries took part in the games this year in full hijab.
The Leader, however, cautioned that young Iranians are the target of a hostile campaign to kill hope among them and consign them to despair and depression.
“The most important message of the championship of the athletes bringing glory to the country in the international arenas is the possibility of accomplishing things that seem impossible and conveying the message of endurance and hope and vitality to the society and the youth,” the Leader said.
“This message is a very important achievement for the society,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, as he cited many agencies planning to “deprive the society, especially the youth, of hope and vitality and consign them to despair and depression”.