Georgian rugby player Ramaz Kharazishvili has been shot in Tbilisi, reportedly by one of the country’s top rugby union officials.
The Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday evening that they had arrested the Vice President of the Georgian Rugby Union, Merab Beselia, for allegedly shooting Zharazishvili in the leg.
The Interior Ministry said they had launched an investigation for ‘intentional less grave bodily injury’ and illegal arms possession.
Kharazishvili, 32, is a former captain of the national rugby sevens side and is president of Kiketi-based club, Jankers. He has also been a vocal critic of the Georgian Rugby Union (GRU), the governing body of the sport in Georgia.
Neither Beselia nor any representative of the GRU has commented on the incident except to confirm that it took place.
Law enforcement agencies said that Kharazishvili had been hospitalised at Caucasus Medical Centre in Tbilisi.
According to the hospital, Kharazishvili was wounded in his left shin and had undergone surgery, but that his condition was stable.
Violence in Georgian sports
As Georgia prepares to take on some of the top sides in the world in the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup 2020, the GRU has been marred by internal controversies.
Last month, Kharazishvili’s Jankers club was among 32 Georgian Rugby clubs accusing Interim President Giorgi Gorgaslidze of sabotaging efforts to create a taskforce to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the sport.
They also criticised the GRU for allegedly misspending state funding and for the protracted election for a new president of the organisation.
The GRU has been unable to elect a new president since January due to internal disagreements.
Besides football, rugby, wrestling, and Judo are among the most popular sports in Georgia. All three sports have been rocked by scandals in recent years.
The possible involvement of Archil Gagnidze, a Georgian rugby player, in the group killing of a teenager in June has received widespread condemnation.
In January 2019, the president of the Georgian National Wrestling Federation, Gega Gegeshidze, assaulted European wrestling champion Zurab Datunashvili.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgian Wrestling head released on bail after ‘assaulting wrestler’]
Public outcry also followed the shooting of several judokas by former Georgian Judo Federation President Lomer Zhorzholiani in May 2018. The judokas had been critical of the federation’s leadership.
[Read more on OC Media: Former Georgian Judo Federation Vice President ‘shoots judoka’]
Georgian opposition groups, including the formerly ruling United National Movement and the European Georgia party, have also been critical of the government in recent years for ‘involving’ Georgian wrestlers and rugby players in anti-opposition violence during elections.
‘I believe that in a normal country, sportsmen should be role models teaching humanity to young people… What kind of attitudes will adolescents who follow these sports and even live by them form?’, complained one Georgian on Facebook after hearing the latest news.