Der Standard, August 9, 2017
FIFA might have to deal with Iran very soon, which has threatened to banish two of its soccer players from its national squad after they played against an Israeli team. Oskar Deutsch and Paul Haber call for sanction if that happens.
Teheran/ Vienna – „This is terrible. FIFA should threaten sanctions,“ says Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Community Vienna. Sport medicine specialist Paul Haber, president of the Jewish sports club Hakoah Vienna has similar views. „There should be at least a warning at this point after the Iranian government mingles in sports in such a way.“ A third Austrian president, Roland Hundstorfer of the Federal Sports Organization, shares this view. „Sports should always unite and never divide,“ said Hundstorfer - like Haber and Deutsch on request by Der Standard.
What has happened so far? The captain of the Iranian national squad, Masoud Shojaei (33) and his deputy Ehsan Hajsafi (27) recently played with their club Panionios Athens against Maccabi Tel Aviv (soon an opponent of Austria’s SCR Altach in the play-offs) and lost 0:1. Because they competed against Israelis, they are facing bans as well as dismissal from the national squad. They could miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia, for which Iran has already qualified. The Ministry of Sports and the soccer association FFI dealt with the kickers harshly. And foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghassemi told news agency IRNA he demands that Iranians playing for clubs abroad should incorporate into their contracts a clause that they will not have to perform against Israelis.
Little Hope of FIFA
For Haber, the threat of exclusion from the World Cup seems appropriate should Iran follow up on its words. He would, however, be „surprised“ should FIFA become active. Deutsch, too, has „pretty much no hope.“ Soccer is like politics, those responsible always think about “the next election and the votes they depend on.” Haber: „High-ranking European politicians go to Iran and shake hands with people who are responsible for the execution of homosexuals or Muslims who converted to Christianity.“
Only on rare occasions do sports organizations bring themselves to implement serious sanctions. During the Olympic Games of 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused a handshake from his victorious Israeli opponent Or Sasson. He subsequently had to depart the Games before the closing ceremony – which he might have done anyway. And the IOC brutally summoned its Egyptian branch to ensure they inform their athletes on Olympic values before the Games.
Numerous Iranian soccer players have competed against Israeli clubs. The first one, by the way, was Sturm Graz’s Mehrdad Minavand, also an Iranian national team player, who played in Graz in a 3:0 Champions League match against Hapoel Tel Aviv on July 26, 2000 for the entire duration without incurring any problems. However, Minavand did not make the following trip to Israel.
It was the current team captain Shojaei who, after the successful qualification for the World Cup, called on Iranian President Hassan Rohani to address the general ban of women in Iran’s stadiums. „I am asking Mr. Rohani to let women into the stadiums. Many women are soccer fans and their interest is overwhelming. I hope this wish comes true soon.“
Lots of Praise Online
Shojaei has received a lot of support via social media, which does not surprise either Haber nor Deutsch. „Many Iranians want to live a normal life,” says Haber.“ Many want to live sort of a Western life, others go in a very different direction; the country is in a interesting phase,“ Deutsch adds. Soccer in this context is just pars pro toto. There is a Twitter campaign in support of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi under the hashtag „soccer is not political.“ It almost sounds like a FIFA – slogan. (Fritz Neumann, 9.8.2017)