Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised the actions of an Iranian wrestler who deliberately lost a fight to avoid facing an Israeli.

Alireza Karimi was told he had to lose a fight in order to avoid meeting an Israeli opponent at the U23 World Championships in Poland last month, and expressed disappointment at having to do so.

However, in a meeting on Sunday, with the athlete and his family, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the wrestler to “expect his spiritual reward from God.”

He said: “Of course, [Iranian] officials should spare no effort in terms of praise and material reward.

“I truly felt proud that you showed that one of our youths is ready to trample upon his ego for a great and lofty goal and forgo his definitive right and certain championship.”

Karimi was later presented with a ring as a gift.