Tehran, February 4: Iran on Friday banned the U.S. wrestlers from participating in the Freestyle World Cup in the western city of Kermanshah in response to President Trump's executive order forbidding visas for Iranian nationals.
The decision marks the first action taken by Iran in response to Trump’s executive order banning visas for seven Muslim-majority countries. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the policy of the new U.S. administration left Iran no other choice but to ban the wrestlers. Ghasemi further said, “The special committee reviewed the case of the U.S. team for the tournament, and “eventually the visit was opposed.”
On the other side, the sport’s domestic governing body of USA Wrestling said in a statement that it hasn’t officially been told it won’t be allowed to compete. The group added that if that is the case, USA Wrestling is “extremely disappointed” in what it calls an “unacceptable situation.” USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender said, “We don’t think politics have any role in this. But, unfortunately, sometimes you can’t control that.”
Notably, Wrestling is extremely popular in Iran and is rooted in an ancient practice of combining the sport with other physical education and meditation. Therefore, Freestyle Wrestling World Cup is organized in Iran. The competition in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah is scheduled for Feb. 16-17. The Iranians, for their part, have made 16 visits to the U.S. as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s. But since the U.S has put the ban on Iranians to visit its country, therefore, Iran in retaliation banned US players.
Interestingly, U.S. freestyle wrestlers have competed in Iran since the 1998 Takhti Cup in Tehran, which followed an absence of nearly 20 years. Since then, Americans have attended Iran-hosted wrestling competitions 15 times. The American athletes were warmly welcomed by cheerful Iranian spectators and sports centers were packed as they appeared on the mats to compete.
Iran, in the end, said it would stop United States citizens entering the country in retaliation to Washington's visa ban against Tehran and seven other majority-Muslim countries announced by new U.S. President Donald Trump.