The brutal violence against the anti-government protests in Iran also has consequences in football: players show solidarity, football icon Mehdi Mahdavikia resigns from his coaching job. The former HSV professional criticizes that important political offices are in the "hands of illiterate people".
According to media reports, Iran's football icon Mehdi Mahdavikia has resigned from his coaching job in Iran. "I no longer have any contact with football in Iran," the former international and Bundesliga professional was quoted as saying by the daily Hamschahri. Mahdavikia was hired last year to coach Iran's U21 national team and was tasked with preparing the team for qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The termination is apparently related to the ongoing protests in the country against the Islamic system. On his Instagram page, 45-year-old Mahdavikia condemned the brutal actions taken by Iranian security forces against anti-government demonstrators. "For several decades, by oppressing students and beating them up, you have caused Iran's elites and capital to flee [the country]," he wrote, among other things.
The important political posts in the country are held by "illiterate people", Mahdavikia further criticized. "And that's what got the country to where we are now." For example, the Hamburger by choice blames the rulers for the protests and emigration of Iran's top executives. He demanded of the members of the vice squad: "At least have the courage to wear a uniform so that people know where your budget is coming from and from whom you are taking orders."
In addition to Mahdavikia, many other footballers are among the critics, including some members of the current national team such as Bayer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun. Former Bundesliga professionals Ali Karimi and Ali Daei also sharply criticized the rulers' actions. Daei, 53, has been banned from leaving Iran after entering the country from Istanbul. According to the Rokna news agency, his passport had been confiscated. Karimi's house had previously been confiscated, the former Schalke and Bayern player is in Dubai.
Former soccer player Hossein Mahini was arrested and imprisoned last week. Since then, other players are said to have been arrested.
There had already been a fuss about the Mahdavikia personnel in December last year. In a FIFA World Cup match against an Arab all-star team, the teams lined up with shirts printed with the flags of all FIFA members, including the Israeli one. For hardliners in the Iranian parliament, Mahdavikia had thus crossed a "red line" in the country's sports policy. Iran does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state, and Mahdavikia undermined this principle by wearing the shirt. At the time, the Iranian Football Association defended him.