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Minister: Georgian Wrestlers’ Action to Wear Shirts with Russian Flag Was Thoughtless

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, August 20
Georgia’s Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Mikheil Batiashvili says the action of some Georgian wrestlers, who wore T-shirts in Russian flag colors and with the image of North Ossetian MP Jambolat Tedeev, was a thoughtless behavior.

"The topic is so sensitive that it is better to think first and then take a step. I think the athletes realized this step and apologized," the minister said.

The photo of two members of the Georgian national freestyle team, Geno Petriashvili and Zurab Iakobishvili, with their coach Giorgi Iantbelidze standing with a group of persons in sports suits reading “Russia,” went viral on August 18 and sparked dissatisfaction and criticism of majority of Georgians.

The users of the social networks slammed the sportsmen for the act, saying it was a “shameful” and “disrespectful’ action towards Georgia.

The President of the Wrestling Federation, Gega Gegeshidze stated it is no one’s business what kind of shirts the wrestlers wear.

He said Jambolat Tedeev, who is the coach of the Russian team, is his friend and the action of the wrestlers was a friendly act, having nothing in common with the politics.

Gegshidze also said that it was Tadeev who helped to transfer the body of Archil Tatunashvili, a Georgian citizen killed in breakaway South Ossetia in February, to the Georgian side.

Coach Giorgi Iantbelidze also made explanations. He said Tadeev asked them to put on the shirts and they did not pay attention they were in Russian flag colors.

“We did not pay attention to the color of the shirts…Russia and its flag have nothing to do with this. Geno Petriashvili and I lost our homes in breakaway Ossetia…believe me, we will never put up with this,” he added.

Besides, Geno Petriashvili stated the photo was taken during the 2018 European Championship in Dagestan, adding Tadeev is a big fan of the Georgian wrestlers and asked them to put on the t-shirts with his photo.

“Such shirts are souvenirs at all championships. This T-shirt depicts our friend wrestler, and that's why we took this photo, it was just a friendly gesture. Believe me, I did not pay attention to the color of the T-shirt. Georgia’s lost territories is a pain for each member of our federation, like for every Georgian,” the post reads.

Jambolat Tedeev is a Chief Trainer of freestyle wrestling combined team of the Russian Federation. He has gained many medals and awards as a sportsman. He is from Georgia’s Russian-occupied region of Tskhinvali.