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The New Arab

Iran slams footballers for playing against Israeli team

Iran forbids Iranian athletes from competing against Israeli athletes at international sporting events. [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 August, 2017

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Iran's football federation has condemned two Iranian players for participating in a match on Friday against an Israeli team, with the move eliciting both praise and criticism in Iran.
Iran's football federation has strongly condemned two Iranian players for participating in a match on Friday against an Israeli team, with the move eliciting both praise and criticism in Iran.

Iran does not recognise Israel and forbids Iranian athletes from competing against Israeli athletes at international sporting events.

Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi played for Greek side Panionios against Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv in Greece on Friday, leading to strong condemnation from Iran's football federation, Fars News Agency reported.

At a previous match against Maccabi in Tel Aviv, both Shojaei and Hajsafi refused to play.

Iran's football federation is reviewing the case and will speak to the players, who both wore Iranian flag wristbands during the game, before deciding whether to ban them from Iran's national football team.

Hard-line Iranian news agency Raja News slammed the players for ignoring their "national and moral responsibility under the pretext of professional obligations".

Other social media users said Shojaei and Hajsafi had recognised "those vampires for a fistful of dirty dollars."

The move, widely seen as breaking a taboo, also elicited praise.

"Why have talented athletes been wasted by this taboo? Breaking this taboo is a big development. Let's be with them whatever the cost may be," one social media user tweeted.

The last official competition between Iranian and Israeli sportsmen was a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine.

In February, a teenage Iranian chess player angered authorities when he played as an individual against an Israeli competitor at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Last year, Alireza Khojasteh withdrew from the judo competition at the Rio Olympics due to "personal reasons", although it is widely reported he decided not to continue due to the possibility he could face an Israeli opponent.

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