A Turkish referee has received death threats on social media by Saudi trolls after he disqualified a Saudi karateka during the men's final event at the Tokyo Olympics last week.
Saudi's Tareg Hamedi was up against Iran's Sajad Ganjzadeh in the men's over-75kg final and was at one point heading for victory, leading 4-1 before being disqualified over an illegal high-kick to his opponent's neck. In the Olympic version of karate, athletes are not supposed to follow through fully on their strikes.
Ugur Kobas was quoted by Middle East Eye on Tuesday as saying "they made me part of the fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I have nothing to do with it. I believe in sportsmanship and peace."
"I only followed the rules and there is nothing political about it," he added.
Saudi Tariq Hamdi led Iranian rival Sajjad Ganjzadeh in karate finals, landing a knockout. He thought he'd won but a Turkish judge ruled the kick illegal & #gold went to Iran. Saudi Arabia claims a "Iranian-Turkish conspiracy."#طارق_حامد #Olympics pic.twitter.com/zP6FlMZrD0
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) August 7, 2021
According to the report, Kobas received "hundreds of thousands of hostile messages" since the decision. He ended up deleting his Twitter account after his inbox was completely full. His Instagram inbox cannot receive any more messages.
"I received 100,000 threatening and insulting messages alone on my photos on Instagram. This is insane," he said. "They threatened me with death. That's okay. But then they started to attack my wife and my son, telling them that they would find all of us and kill us."
Sajjad Ganjzadeh won the final match of men's Kumite +75 kg at #Tokyo2020 #Olympics ￼karate contests & won the #Gold ￼medal on Saturday after defeating his Saudi opponent at final game due to the illegal move of Saudi opponent & won 4-0 by Hansoku.#Iran pic.twitter.com/SNGINFsgvd
— Iran_Newsroom (@Iran_NewsRoom) August 7, 2021
The bout which was beset with external political rivalries saw the unconscious Ganjzadeh winning the event and subsequently being awarded a Gold medal and Hamedi a Silver. Had Hamedi won, it would have been the kingdom's first ever in the Olympic Games. Turkey's Ugur Aktas and Japan's Ryutaro Araga won the bronze medals in the event.
After being named the winner, Ganjzadeh said: "I'm happy about the gold medal but I'm sad that I had to win it like this." After receiving their medals, the fighters embraced and Ganjzadeh raised Hamedi's hand in the air.
"If you ask me if I agree or not, I disagree, of course, because I love the gold medal," Hamedi said. "But I am satisfied with the level of performance I gave, and I accept their decision. I don't have any objection. I think I played well. That's all I can say."