A noisy fight broke out in the city of Tabriz on Friday, April 19, after the home soccer team lost its second consecutive game that significantly reduced its chance to win the Iranian Premier League Championship.
On social media, some reminded that the clash was also fuelled by ethnic divides. The defeated team is traditionally supported by Azeri speakers.
The defeat against Paykan, exasperated the fans of the red-shirt home team, Tractor Sazi Tabriz Football Club, to the extent that they hurled stones, dismantled the arena's seats, and chanted bitter slogans.
As soon as the referee whistled the end of the game, one-nil in favor of Peykan, an unprecedented riot wrapped the stands. A violent brawl broke out that left many seriously injured.
"Fifty fans of the home team, several security forces, and one of the emergency staff were severely battered," the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run Tasnim news agency reported.
In spite of massive security measures, one of the enraged spectators entered the field and slapped Tractor Sazi's captain, Massoud Shojaei. The captain's teammate, Ashkan Dejagah reacted in support of his teammate. Soon, the brawls intensified to the point that the press conference of Tractor Sazi's manager was called off.
The riot and the fighting were quite unprecedented in the history of soccer in Iran, local reporters say. Tractor Sazi, with 49 points is currently in fourth place of the table.
The unrest at the stands allocated to the fans of Tractor Sazi began last week when it experienced the bitter taste of an unexpected defeat against Sepidrood, in the city of Rasht, northern Iran. Tractor Sazi's goalkeeper, Mohsen Forouzan, was blamed for making a series of mistakes and giving away the match.
The goalkeeper was later dismissed by the owner of the club, Mohammad Reza Zonnouzi, who announced that Forouzan had been referred to the disciplinary committee of the club. Meanwhile, Foruzan is accused of collusion against his own team, as well.
The night after the defeat in Rasht was described as the "Night of Horror" by the state-run Channel 3 TV. "Everybody at Tabriz airport was looking for Forouzan. Fans stopped cars, hoping to find the disappeared goalie," Channel 3 reported.
However, Forouzan's substitute, out-of-form Mohammad Reza Akhbari disappointed the fans by making a terrible mistake, giving the home match away against Peykan.
Meanwhile, a controversial MP from the neighboring West Azarbaijan province wrote a letter to Iran’s Sports Minister, demanding punishment for the goalkeeper and his wife, accusing them of being involved in dubious betting. It is not clear if the lawmaker presented any evidence for the accusation he has made.
At the same time, one of Iran’s leading sports publications, Piroozi, demanded that Tractor Sazi’s next matches to be held in empty stadiums without spectators to avoid further controversy.
Another factor that led to the fans restlessness was a penalty given to the home team. However, the referee decided to repeal his decision, ruling out the penalty.
Tractor Sazi has changed three coach-managers since the current season began and counted as one of the worst teams for its weak management and technical support.