FIFA ask Iran to explain ban of two national team players who played against Maccabi

August 14 – Iran is being formally asked by FIFA to provide further information as to why it banned two Iranian internationals for life as punishment for playing for their Greek club against an Israeli side.

Captain Masoud Shojaei (pictured) and fellow midfielder Ehsan Haji Safi both turned out for Panionios, which pays their salaries, in the Europa League against Maccabi Tel Aviv last month, prompting Iran’s ministry of sport to warn of “proper punitive measures” even though the game was a European club fixture and nothing to do with international football.

Iran does not recognise Israel and supports groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas that call for the Jewish state’s destruction. Shojaei and Haji Safi, 71 and 84 caps respectively, are now paying the price, having both played the full 90 minutes for Panionios in the third qualifying round, second leg which the Israelis won 2-0 on aggregate.

Both have been subsequently banned by the Iranian sports ministry from the national team, prompting an outrage on social media from Iranian fans inside and outside the country.

FIFA’s statutes ban political interference by governments in the affairs of its national associations and in a statement to Reuters, FIFA said: “We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation.”

Iran have already qualified for next year’s World Cup but any FIFA sanction could potentially jeopardise that. So far there has been no official comment from the Asian Football Confederation.

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