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Iranian Officials React To Soccer Match With Political Overtones

Fans of Tractor Sazi soccer club, some of whom began chanting pro-Turkey and anti-Kurdish slogans during a game on November 1, 2019.

The deputy of the Islamic Republic Interior Ministry in security and intelligence affairs says that authorities have arrested seven spectators who had attended a noisy soccer match that took on ethnic and political overtones in the city of Tabriz.

Accusing the detainees of "actions against conventional soccer-fan behavior," Hossein Zolfaqari also said that three to four more spectators were also wanted for "writing something" in the arena during Esteqlal FC match against Tractor Sazi, the local Tabriz team.

Several Tractor Sazi fans were carrying banners on Friday, October 1 match in support of Turkey's military operation against the Syrian Kurds.

Meanwhile, Tractor Sazi fans, who are mainly from Azeri-speaking provinces of Iran's East and West Azarbaijan, chanted “Detah to Kurds during the match.

Furthermore, some of the fans were carrying banners that read, "Either Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia!"

They were referring to the non-violent separation of Slovakia from the Czech Republic, and the deadly civil war in former Yugoslavia that led to its collapse.

A group of Azeri speakers regard themselves as belonging to Turkic speaking nations and advocate separation from Iran. Many others simply want their language to be officially taught in schools.

Immediately after the unprecedented event at Esteqlal v Tractor Sazi match, the Islamic Republic Minister of Youth and Sports, Massoud Soltanifar, said that he had ordered a special commsions to be formed to defend "preservation of moral and cultural values," at sports arenas.

The delegation will be composed of representatives from the Ministries of Intelligence, Culture, and Islamic Guidance, the monopolized state-owned Radio&TV networks, Football (soccer) Federation, parliament’s Cultural Commission, the police, and the deputy of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in cultural affairs, as well as representatives of the Football (soccer) clubs in Iran.

Similar behavior has taken place before in the IRGC-dominated Iranian soccer.