Iran has banned for life two players on its national soccer team who participated in a match against an Israeli team in Greece, according to media reports on Thursday.
“It is certain that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi will never be invited to join the national football team because they violated the red line,” Mohammad Reza Davarzani, Iran’s deputy sports minister, said on the Iranian state broadcasting network.
“They have a financial contract with a club to be paid and play for that team, but to play with the representative of a loathsome regime… this is not acceptable for Iranian people,” Davarzani said.
The decision to banish the two players from ever playing for Iran again was announced after the Iranian Parliament denounced them in a special meeting of the foreign policy committee on Sunday.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry welcomed the Iranian players’ decision:
“Well done to Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi who broke the taboo of not playing in matches against Israeli athletes,” it said on its IsraelPersian twitter account.
“These two are good players,” said Peyman Rahbar, a well-known sportswriter for the Varzesh3 website in Iran. “They can be replaced, but that is not an ideal situation.” He did not want to comment on the political nature of the decision, saying only, “We have to see what FIFA will decide.”
Iran could run into trouble with FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, over the incident. FIFA has rules that prohibit political interference in national teams.
There was no immediate comment from FIFA on the matter.