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FIFA Demands Explanation Over Ousted Iranian Footballers

Panionios' Ehsan Hajsafi (L) vies for the ball with Tel Aviv's Eyal Golasa during the UEFA Europa League Third qualifying round soccer match Panionios vs Tel Aviv held at Nea Smyrni Stadium in Athens, Greece, 03 August 2017.

FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), has demanded the Islamic Republic to provide further information over its decision to drop two footballers from Iran’s national team, after they played for their Greek side against an Israeli team.

Captain of Iran’s National Football team, Masoud Shojaei and his teammate, Ehsan Hajsafi played for full ninety minutes in their Greek team, Panionios home match in Athens against the Israeli club, Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday, August 3.

The midfielders were not present at the away match in Israel.

Nevertheless, Iran’s Football federation last week strongly condemned their participation in the home leg of the matches.

Meanwhile, conservatives in Iran bombarded the pair with threats.

“Hajsafi and Shojaei’s move in no way constitutes endorsement and it will certainly be addressed according to regulations and the law,” said Director of Security at Iran’s Sports Ministry, Mohammad Javad Ababaf, adding, “Most probably the pair are going to lose their spots in the national squad. Nevertheless, we should wait for officials’ final verdict.”

Then, on Thursday, August 10, Ministry of Sports’ deputy, Mohammad Reza Davarzani put the final nail in the coffin, declaring, “Both footballers have lost their spot on Iranian National Team... they crossed Iran's red line”.

Previously it was announced that the final verdict will be issued after a person to person interview with Shojaei and Hajsafi.

FIFA's statutes ban political interference in its affiliated national associations, which can be suspended if the rule is breached.

Argentina's Lionel Messi fights for the ball against Iran's Mehrdad Pouladi (L) and Ehsan Hajsafi (R) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match. June 21, 2014
Argentina's Lionel Messi fights for the ball against Iran's Mehrdad Pouladi (L) and Ehsan Hajsafi (R) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match. June 21, 2014

"We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation,” said a FIFA spokesperson in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We have no further comment for the time being."

If a country's FA is suspended, it means both the national team and its clubs are barred from international competition.

Iran has already qualified for next year's World Cup, making it an especially delicate matter for FIFA.

FIFA statutes state that “each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties”.

However, positive reactions to the pair’s move on social media were quite significant. In most comments, Shojaei and Hajsafi were praised for their courageous “professionalism” and respect for sports international regulations.

There were also comments that branded the move as “an end to the regime’s injustice against Iranian athletes”.

Moreover, a twitter campaign labelled as #NoBan4Ourplayers has been launched by Iranians to defend Shojaei and Hajsafi’s “courageous move”, protest against their elimination from the national side and raise concerns over its consequences.

An internationally known former Iranian football star, Mehdi Mahdavi Kia wrote on his Instagram account, “The moments you made people of Iran joyous will never be forgotten. Let’s hope for the day that politics leaves sports behind and action replaces words”.