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Wrestle for Humanity

1983. Saeed Esmaeli

Saeed Esmaeli, from Bristol, is a former international Olympic wrestler and coach who has given hundreds of young people the chance to take part in Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling classes.

Saeed Esmaeli

Saeed comes from a family with a rich wrestling heritage in Iran, which he brought with him when he moved to the UK in 1987. Having provided wrestling coaching for many years, as well as having spent 27 years as a professional dancer, in 2019 he set up his charitable initiative ‘Wrestle for Humanity’ to fuse together wrestling, psychology and movement to transform and improve the lives of people facing various forms of adversity within the community, such as financial difficulties, visible and non-visible disabilities, mental health challenges, drug abuse and criminal offending. Saeed works closely with Bristol schools, faith and community groups to widen participation and use the sport to improve fitness, confidence and discipline.

In a personal letter to Saeed, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

“I was inspired to learn how you are bringing together your experience as an Olympic wrestling coach, professional dancer and therapist to support hundreds of young people across Bristol.

“Your coaching is developing their confidence, self-discipline and fitness – and in the Pahlavani wrestling tradition, you are also inspiring them to do good deeds in their community.”

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said:

“I’ve known Saeed for a long time, since school, so know how deserving he is of this national award from the Prime Minister.

“Wrestle for Humanity is a brilliant Bristol initiative, bringing together physical wellness and social inclusion. I was glad to help fundraise for Saeed’s project, and am proud to see it continue to go from strength to strength.

“Saeed’s credentials are golden from coaching Olympic champions, as is his commitment to working with young people in his local community – including my own kids!”

Saeed said:

“I’ve won many awards in wrestling but none are as precious to me as being rewarded for doing humanitarian work in our community – it’s close to my heart. I believe more people should get medals for kindness.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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