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Hardliners Attack Veteran Football Coach Saying Iran Must Recognize Israel

Mohammad Mayeli Kohan, Iranian football coach. FILE PHOTO

A veteran Iranian soccer coach has lambasted the Islamic Republic establishment for refusing to recognize Israel and threatening to destroy the Jewish state. His comment has angered the Baseej (mobilization forces), and other hardliners known as the "people of [Islamic] values."

A former head coach of Iranian national football (soccer) and futsal teams, Mohammad Mayeli Kohan has also captained Tehran's Persepolis club and managed several other teams, including Foulad-e Khuzestan, Malavan-e Bandar Pahlavi, and SAIPA.

Responding to a question raised by a former national soccer star, Khodadad Azizi, at the end of a promotional show, Mayeli Kohan asserted, "We cannot live in isolation in the world. I repeat we cannot live alone in the world. Do we accept the United Nations or not?"

The audience unanimously answered yes. At this point the former national team coach added, "If we accept it, then we must also accept the members of the United Nations. We cannot say that a country should be destroyed. No, we can't. When we accept the United Nations, we cannot accept some parts of it while rejecting other parts."

Without confirming or dismissing Mayeli Kohan's comments, Azizi thanked him and said goodbye.

Mayeli Kohan is one of the figures of the first generation of the Islamic Revolution, but his remarks have triggered a barrage of criticism from hardliners and Hezbollah figures on social media.

They have called him dishonorable, stupid, a prostitute, a Zionist and an Israeli dog, and wrote, "We are expecting the release of a video by Mayeli Kohan to admit 'I blew it!'"

Meanwhile, the Persian Twitter account of the Israeli foreign ministry has praised Mayeli-Kohan, referring to his remarks as "courageous truth-telling."

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 the ruling regime does not recognize Israel and, based on an unwritten law, has prohibited Iranian athletes to compete with their Israeli counterparts.