Iranian table tennis coach pulls athlete from competing against Israeli opponent in Special Olympics

Israeli table tennis player David Keresenti raising an Israeli flag at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. Photo: Provided

Teheran – An Israeli table tennis player was denied the opportunity to compete on Monday morning at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games held in Berlin, Germany, after the coach of his Iranian opponent pulled his athlete from a match to avoid having him go against a competitor from Israel, The Algemeiner has learned.

David Moshe Keresenti, 17, was set to go head-to-head against an Iranian player in a men’s single match but when the Israeli athlete arrived to compete, he was informed that his opponent’s coach team refused to let the player participate, a representative from the Israeli delegation told The Algemeiner, adding that the coach of the Iranian athlete also asked the match’s referees to disqualify his player, saying the latter had a fever. As a result, Keresenti received a technical win.

The Israeli delegation representative added they do not know the name of the Iranian athlete but according to the website for the Special Olympics, Artin Sarreshtehdari is listed as the only Iranian table tennis player competing in men’s singles. He is a minor and his age is not listed on the website.

Gon Tzuri, head of the Israeli delegation, believes the decision by the Iranian coach to pull his athlete from the match was due to political reasons. Iran refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and has a long-standing ban on having its athletes compete against opponents from Israel in any sport.

“The goal of the SO [Special Olympics] movement is to create an inclusive society,” Tzuri told The Algemeiner. “Let the politicians argue between themselves, and don’t let them use this amazing Olympic event as a political tool. Special Olympics Israel promotes social equality through sports and includes all sides of the diverse Israeli society. Special Olympics is the way to unity. We see the beauty in all religions, countries and traditions. All are welcome to compete and evolve through sports. There is no place for nothing here but brotherhood.”

The Special Olympics World Games did not respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment regarding Monday’s incident.

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