The Jewish state is not recognized by the Islamic republic, who places it in the category as the United States — calling it the “Great Satan”.

Iran forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis. Social media has picked up the story of wrestler Alireza Karimi Mashiani, which has sparked debates among Iranians. Many in Iran oppose this stance, but some also support it.

The wrestlers were competing in the 86-kilo category of the under-23 world championships held in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz on Saturday. Online footage seemed to show that Karimi Mashiani was well ahead in his bout against Russia’s Alikhan Zabrailov. After a voice shouts out in Persian, “You must lose, Alireza!” he let himself be easily beaten. The Iranian athlete seemed to abandon the fight completely.

In Iran, the hashtag #youmustlose was trending on Twitter on Monday, with comments both for and against his actions. Most comments were hostile to Iran’s authorities and a few saluted the wrestler’s stand.

He likely forfeited a podium place in the tournament, but Karimi Mashiani received the backing of Iranian regime, as well as the Iran regime’s wrestling federation. Which in a statement said, “Your noble and heroic action in the world competition in Poland, abandoning the medal and the podium, is a source of pride and praise.”

The regime’s wrestling federation in its own statement called him a “hero” and extolled his “sacrifice”.

State run ISNA news agency quoted Mohammad Talaie, the coach of the national free wrestling team, when he called Karimi Mashiani a “deserving young man” and appealed for this to be recognized by the authorities.

However, one MP, Mahmud Sadeghi, tweeted, “It is not difficult not to face an opponent so you do not recognize the false identity of his government”, but “it is very difficult to be forced to weakness and forced to defeat a rival.”

Other tweets said such things as: “If he decides to go fight in the colours of another country, no one can say he sold out his homeland,” and, “Do the authorities not say that Israel is evil? Instead of running away, let us rise up and fight and defeat them.”

Meanwhile, at the tournament, Russia’s Zabrailov won gold in the 86-kilo category, and Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov took the third step of the podium.