Freestyle Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi-Machiani allegedly chose to lose against Russia’s Alikhan Zhabrailov at the Senior U23 World Championship in Poland on Saturday (November 25) to avoid facing Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov in the next round.

Iran’s government paid tribute Monday to one of the country’s wrestlers who threw an international bout when he was ahead because winning would have meant fighting an opponent from Israel.

The Islamic republic does not recognize the Jewish state, placing it in the same “Great Satan” category as the United States, and forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis.

Iranians reacted with outrage on social media, sharing footage of the match.

In one clip, a man’s voice, suspected by observers to be Karimi-Machiani’s trainer, can be heard saying “lose Alireza”, as the Iranian is winning. The trainer then stops the match to speak privately with the wrestler who then returns to lose the match 3-14.

While he may have forfeited a podium place in the tournament, Karimi Mashiani did receive the backing of his government and the Iranian wrestling federation.

The country’s wrestling federation in its own statement called him a “hero” and extolled his “sacrifice”, hinting that he had acted in a similar manner previously in 2013.

“It is the second time that you have risen up against the oppression of the Palestinian people by abandoning your rights in an act of absolute submission,” the federation wrote.