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article imageIranian Footballers Forced to Retire for Supporting Protesters

By Mark Kersten     Jun 24, 2009 in World
While sport has long been considered political, perhaps no stronger indication of the political realities of sport exists than the forced retirement of Iranian footballers after showing their support of Iranian protesters.
In the midst of Iran's crisis, six of the country's national team footballers wore green armbands, a sign of support for Iranians protesting the recent election results. Green is the colour of Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi's campaign, who lost the election to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sparking popular protests in the Middle East nation. The government's crackdown on the popular mobilization has resulted in the deaths of at least 10 Iranians.
The players wore the politically charged symbols during the team's World Cup qualifying match against South Korea in Seoul. Four, Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka'abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32, were "retired" from football in Iran. According to The Guardian, the fate of the other two Iranian players who chose to express their support for the protesters is unknown.
Further, the Guardian maintains that the media Iran has linked the gesture to the recent arrest of Mohsen Safayi Farahani, who headed of country's football governing body under, Mohammad Khatami, the former president considered to be reformist. It noted that he "is one of several dozen opposition politicians, intellectuals and journalists to have been detained."
Little will be known about the players' perspective of what happened, at least in the short term. In addition to being outlawed from playing football, they were banned from speaking to the media.
The match ended 1-1, ending Iran's hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
More about Iran, Football, Mousavi
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