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Mousavi supporter cheers for team Photo: Reuters
Mousavi supporter cheers for team Photo: Reuters
 
Protest in the stadium Photo: Reuters
Protest in the stadium Photo: Reuters
 
Mousavi supporters in Tehran Photo: Reuters
Mousavi supporters in Tehran Photo: Reuters
 
 

Iranian footballers show support for Mousavi

World Cup qualifier in South Korea turns into anti-government protest on part of Islamic republic's national team players, who wear green wristbands to show their support for defeated presidential candidate

Dudi Cohen
Published: 06.17.09, 16:30 / Israel News

Members of Iran's national football team staged a protest against their government during a World Cup qualifier Wednesday by wearing green wristbands showing their support for the reformist camp led by Mir Hossein Mousavi.

 

Iranian bloggers estimated later that Ali Abadi, chairman of the Iranian Football Federation (FFI), who is close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had telephoned Seoul during half time and instructed the players to remove the green wristbands immediately. Some of the players, however, did not obey.

 

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The team suffered a different kind of blow with the South Korean team's equalizer just before the end of the match, which badly harmed their chances of taking part in the World Cup next summer.

 

Iranians in Seoul are taking advantage of a World Cup football qualifier to denounce their government amid allegations of election rigging at home.


Masoud Shojai with green wristband (Photo: Reuters)

 

A conservative website in Iran reported that all the team players walked onto the field wearing green wristbands expect for one player - Mehdi Mahdavikia, who wore a white wristband in support of Ahmadinejad.

 

According to this report as well, all the players were instructed to remove the band during half time, apart from Mahdavikia, who kept the white wristband on till the end of the game.

 

Iranian bloggers rushed to upload photos from the match and praised the players' move. The responses ranged between "bravo" and "excellent", as well as "with such a beautiful thing the result no longer matters".

 

One of the bloggers wrote, "We need no help, our football team did the green work for us."


Incident not mentioned by official news agencies (Photo: AP)

 

Iran's official news agencies, on the other hand, did not address the political protest on the part of the national team players, which created a lot of curiosity in the country. Football is the most popular sport in Iran, and Ahmadinejad himself is an ardent fan of the team, which is followed by millions in the Islamic republic and worldwide.

 

'Go to Hell Dictator'

Before the match, dozens of Iranians staged a protest to condemn the weekend election results that gave Ahmadinejad a second term.

 

They unfurled a banner that read, "Go to Hell Dictator," and chanted, "Compatriots, we will be with you to the end with the same heart," during the protest outside a Seoul stadium.

 

Protesters said they would display the banner during the match.

 

Violent protests flared and allegations of voter fraud erupted in Iran following the announcement Saturday that Ahmadinejad had beaten pro-reform candidate Mousavi.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

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