Khamenei Comments II: Islam’s Rules on Sports

            Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told athletes that they play a valuable role in promoting Iran’s values abroad and raising “national self-confidence” at home. Athletes act as ambassadors at international competitions, presenting Iran as a “determined, religious, talented and noble nation, which is committed to Sharia (Islamic law),” Khamenei said at a March 11 meeting with veteran athletes and participants from the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The supreme leader argued that Iranian women who wear hijab while competing promote piety and modesty abroad. Refusal to compete with Israeli athletes is a “truly crucial and important diplomatic effort to confront the Zionist regime,” he said. The following are excerpted remarks from Khamenei’s speech.

Women in Sports
      “An athlete promotes the values of a nation with good sportsmanship and piety. The fact that our woman athletes enter sports arenas with hijab (head covering) is very important…”
      “In a certain European country, some people dare to kill a woman because she is wearing hijab. And they do it in a court of law and in front of the judge. This is the case. They are not ashamed of it. Under a certain illegitimate law, they harass women who wear hijab in universities, stadiums, parks and on the streets. In such conditions, a woman who wears hijab stands on the medal platform in such countries and makes everyone respect her. Is this a minor achievement? This is a very great achievement. Everybody should appreciate from the bottom of their heart the value of woman athletes who participate in international arenas with hijab and modesty….”
Faith and Athletics
            “When our athletes achieve a victory in such arenas and when they are ranked first, they chant the slogan of "Ya Hossein", prostrate themselves and hold up their hands and thank God. Do you know how excited the Islamic Ummah and Muslim nations become when you do this? In sports arenas, our outstanding youth - not ordinary youth - give such prominence to spirituality in a world in which there is an effort to make young individuals decadent and turn their backs on spirituality…”
U.S.-Iran Rivalry
            “Imagine that in an international sports competition - such as the recent one - you participate with 54 athletes and you win 12 medals. Imagine that America participates with 530 athletes and it wins 110 medals. If America wants to win as many medals as you do, it should win 120 medals. It participates with 10 times more athletes than you do. Therefore, it should win 10 times more medals than you do. It should win 120 medals. But it has not won 120 medals…”
Sports Solve Social Problems
            “If people turn to sports activities, many social and behavioral problems - such as addiction, family rows, financial and psychological problems and other such problems - will be solved. Many of our problems will be solved if sports activities become truly common among all the people in our country… That is to say, you can strengthen morality and promote Iranian traditions….”
Refusal to Compete with “Zionists”
            “The fact that our youth refused to compete with Zionist athletes in sports arenas is very valuable. That is why arrogant powers became so angry. They reacted strongly when this happened several times. This move, which was made by our youth, is very important. It is truly a crucial and important diplomatic effort to confront the Zionist regime...”
Athletes as Role Models
            “[W]hen we look at a champion, we find him to be a manifestation of intelligence, firm determination, physical capabilities and many other qualities. Naturally, a champion has great self-confidence. He does not need to do things that weak people do. He does not need to flatter, lie and cheat. He does not need to be hypocritical…”
            “On a social level, a champion raises national self-confidence because he is the manifestation of the capabilities of a nation in a certain arena. That is to say, he raises the self-confidence of all people in a country… Professional sports are the engine for regular exercise. With professional sports, we can do something to make regular exercise common. Regular exercise is one of the necessities of life. It is like eating and breathing. We should pay attention to it. This is another role of sports on a social level…”
            “Fortunately, our athletes are morally healthy. But we should strongly stress this issue. There are certain dangers. When there is a lot of media attention on an international level, a young athlete may be in serious danger of becoming immoral. We should hold this danger at bay… Being humble, being loyal and sympathetic to the people and exercising good sportsmanship are very important qualities. It is one thing to achieve these qualities, it is quite another to preserve these qualities...”
Disabled Athletes
            “[W]e should appreciate the value of disabled athletes. What they do is really astonishing. When people look at these athletes, they see that not only does their disability not prevent them from living in a normal way, but they are also so determined that they become athletes and stand on the medal platform…”
Polo’s Iranian Roots
            “Well, in such and such sports, we do not at all rank high in the world and we have no chance to do so. We are unlikely to rank high in such sports. Of course, there are certain reasons for this. But in certain sports, we are ranked high in the world. Today, you stand on the medal platform in a number of sports such as wrestling, weightlifting or other sports. This is very important. A few years ago - I do not remember which year it was - I had a meeting with my athlete friends. I referred to chowgan [polo] as one of these sports in that meeting. Well, chowgan is a sport which belongs to the people of Iran…You should pay attention to sports which have deep historical roots [in Iran] and in which we are talented, particularly sports for which we have native coaches.”
Need for Foreign Coaches

            “One of the brothers in this meeting said that we should benefit from foreign coaches. I have no objections in this regard. You should not think that I am opposed to hiring a good and competent foreign coach. But when you benefit from a native coach for soccer, basketball, volleyball, wrestling or any other sports, I become happy and I feel a sense of pride. It is very good that the coach of our athletes and our youth is one of us and is nurtured here. Of course, some foreign coaches are good and some others are not good and they take a lot of money, they have high expectations and sometimes they do not carry out their duties. There are such coaches. Therefore, this is what I mean when I sometimes speak about foreign coaches…”

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