And for years, most of the governing authorities of sports federations have turned a blind eye and accepted the excuses of the athletes that they suddenly became "sick" or otherwise couldn't attend.
Now, Ayatollah Khamenei has made it crystal clear that these athletes are doing his bidding, and he has praised them. From Tasnim News:
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei admired the Iranian athletes who safeguard the religious and moral values in the sports events, irrespective of the delusive wave that may prevail in the international arenas.
The Iranian athletes that explicitly safeguard the values in the championship games do a valued deed, Ayatollah Khamenei said in a gathering of officials involved in holding a congress to commemorate the Iranian athletes that have been martyred.
What is even worthier than standing on the championship stage or raising of the country’s flag is an Iranian athlete’s refusal to wrestle with a Zionist Israeli opponent or a female athlete’s decision to attend the medal award ceremony while respecting the Islamic code of dressing and wearing hijab, Imam Khamenei underlined.
In fact, Khamenei released a poster making that same point:
According to the "Supreme Leader," an athlete refusing to compete against Israelis is a greater honor than representing Iran as a champion in international sports.
That's some serious hate there.
Ironically, this photo was taken as Khamenei was honoring Iranian Paralympics athletes, yet last year at the Special Olympics the Iranian and Israeli competitors became friends and the torch was passed from the Iranians to the Israelis at the opening ceremony.
Nonetheless, Khamenei's words prove that it is no coincidence that Iranian competitors refuse to play against Israelis on principle, not due to illness.
Last month, an Iranian chess champion refused to play any Israelis in a Swiss contest and was not allowed to compete for the rest of the competition.
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