FIFA to probe Iran's ban of two soccer players

Soccer's world governing body examining Iran's decision to ban two players who competed against an Israeli team.

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Elad Benari,

Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration)
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Soccer's world governing body, FIFA, is examining the Iranian government's decision to ban two players from the country’s national team as a punishment for them competing against an Israeli team, i24news reported on Saturday.

The two, Haji Safi and Masoud Shojaei, were banned and will no longer be allowed to wear the national shirt after they played against Maccabi Tel Aviv for their Greek club Panionios in the Europa League third qualifying round.

On Thursday, a government minister announced their decision to ban them from the national team, of which Shojaei is a captain.

The Iranian reaction has prompted the interest of FIFA, whose statues prohibit political interference in the running of its member bodies, which includes the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, noted i24news.

"We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation," said a FIFA spokesperson told the Reuters news agency on Friday, adding, "We have no further comment for the time being."

The report said Iran's decision to punish the players may compromise Iran's qualification for the next World Cup and could even lead to its suspension from FIFA and thus international competition.

Iran, which does not recognize Israel, prohibits athletes or competitors in other fields from competing against Israelis.

This past February, a 15-year-old Iranian chess player was banned from the national team after he played against an Israeli opponent at an international chess event.

In 2011, Iranian chessmaster Ehsan Ghaem Maghami was expelled from an international chess tournament after refusing to play an Israeli opponent.

Last year, an Iranian refused to compete against an Israeli at a chess tournament in Switzerland in order to reject the existence of "the Zionist state".

In 2010, an Iranian contestant withdrew from a Taekwondo match against Israel’s Gili Haimovitz, who won a gold medal by default.

In 2012, Iranian athletes announced their intention to boycott competitions against Israelis at the London Olympics.