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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iranian soccer players banned, passports revoked

Four Iranian soccer players who wore green armbands in support of the revolution at a World Cup qualifying soccer match in Seoul, South Korea last week, have received a lifetime ban from the sport and have had their passports revoked as punishment.
According to the pro-government newspaper Iran, four players – Ali Karimi, 31 [pictured. CiJ], Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka'abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32 – have been "retired" from the sport after their gesture in last Wednesday's match against South Korea in Seoul.

They were among six players who took to the field wearing wristbands in the colour of the defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, which has been adopted by demonstrators who believe the 12 June election was stolen.

Most of the players obeyed instructions to remove the armwear at half-time, but Mahdavikia wore his green captain's armband for the entire match. The four are also said to have been banned from giving media interviews.

The fate of the other two players who wore the wristbands is unknown. None of the team members were given back their passports upon returning to Tehran after the match, which ended in a 1-1 draw – a result that ended Iran's hopes of qualifying for next year's tournament. [And we can probably assume that they returned to Iran - rather than defect - because their family members were being held hostage in Iran. CiJ].

Karimi is one of Iranian football's best-known stars, having played for the German club Bayern Munich. Ka'abi played for Leicester City for several months during the 2007/8 season. Hashemian and Mahdavikia play for the German teams Bochum and Eintracht Frankfurt.

The gesture acutely embarrassed Iranian officials. The team's chief administrative officer, Mansour Pourhiedari, initially claimed the wristbands had been intended as a religious tribute to a revered Shia figure in the hope that it would deliver a victory on the pitch.

Iran's hardline media have since linked the protest to the arrest on Saturday of Mohsen Safayi Farahani, who headed the country's football governing body under the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami. He is one of several dozen opposition politicians, intellectuals and journalists to have been detained.

Hezbollah, a pro-Ahmadinejad website, accused Farahani, a member of the pro-reform Islamic participation front, of bribing the players to wear the symbols. Farahani was one of several prominent figures accused by Ahmadinejad of corruption during the recent election campaign.
I suppose this is not very surprising. More here.


At 12:00 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The regime is relentlessly cracking down... unlike the Shah in his final days, it is resolute and determined to remain in power at all costs. That is the nature of the people the West is facing - and they're not known for a willingness to compromise on their objectives.

What could go wrong indeed


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