As FIFA Says ‘Avoid Politics’, Iranian Players Demand Boycott

While FIFA has urged teams to avoid political battles, a former Iranian national footballer has called on fans not to travel to Qatar to watch FIFA World Cup matches.

Iran national team goalkeeper Sosha Makani said in a video on his Instagram Thursday that it is wrong to go to Qatar to watch football matches because the Iranian regime will exploit their presence in the stadiums to tell the world that they support the Islamic Republic.

Referring to the brutal murder of Nika Shakarami by government security forces, he stressed that Iranians must seize every opportunity to tell the world that the Islamic Republic is a “child killer”.

“This government and its filthy supporters are murdering a 16 year old girl and to escape the consequences throwing her off a building, so don’t you think they will exploit your slogans at the World Cup? Use your tribunes to shout “Death to the child-killing Islamic regime”, he added.

Nika Shakarami’s body was found in suspicious circumstances ten days after she left her home to take part in a protest rally against compulsory hijab on September 20. Authorities said she was thrown from a rooftop or jumped to her death after taking part in the protests.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino wrote to World Cup teams on Thursday asking them to focus on football in Qatar and not let ideological “battles” drag on football pitches.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino pictured on October 18, 2022

“We know that football does not live in a vacuum and we are also aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all over the world… [but] at FIFA, we try to respect all opinions and beliefs, without giving moral lessons to the rest of the world,” Infantino said in his letter.

As the 2022 World Cup kicks off in nearly two weeks, a group of Iranian sportsmen say that due to the regime’s violence and discrimination, they have no choice but to turn their backs on their National team.

These former karate, wrestling and judo champions sent a letter to FIFA last week demanding that the Islamic Republic be expelled from the tournament.

Former wrestling champion Sardar Pashaei, who was one of the signatories, said: “Iran is different from any other country. A football federation should be independent, but in Iran it’s a joke.

“Everything is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. Enough is enough. We believe Iran is killing protesters. They should be banned until we have a democratic country like any other country in the world,” Pachaei stressed.

Former and current Iranian national footballers including Ali Karimi, Ali Daie, Medhi Mahdavikia, Merhrdad Pouladi, Sardar Azmoun, Hossein Mahini, Voria Ghafouri and Aref Gholami were among the athletes who spoke out against the government crackdown on protesters.

Ali Karimi was one of the first celebrities to condemn Mahsa Amini’s death. Since then, Karimi has expressed his support for the protesters on social media by becoming an icon for them.

Football legend Ali Daei also called on the government to “solve the problems of the Iranian people rather than resorting to repression, violence and arrests”.

He also dismissed the regime’s account of the death of a 15-year-old girl in his hometown of Ardabil, saying he does not believe that Asra Panahi died of heart failure and dismissed as “rumors” that she had committed suicide.

Mehdi Mahdavi Kia on Friday lambasted the government on his Instagram page saying “Shame on those who have divided the country into insiders and uninitiated”.