As usual, there’s a lot of noise coming out of different corners of the world regarding the Iranian footballers Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haj Safi who honored their commitments to their Greek club Panionios and took the field in Athens on Thursday against Maccabi of Tel Aviv.
A week earlier, Panionios travelled to Israel without its Iranian stars and lost 1-0. Shojaei and Haj Safi had made it clear to their coaches, management and the fans that it is illegal for them to travel to Israel and they received the full support of everyone. A similar situation happened ten years earlier when Iran’s current national team captain Ashkan Dejagah refused to travel to Israel with Germany’s under-21 national team.
“I have more Iranian than German blood in my veins. I am doing it out of respect. After all, my parents are Iranian," the 21-year-old midfielder said at the time. The German soccer federation accepted his decision. However, there were some Jewish groups in Germany and Europe that wanted him to be banned for life. But sanity prevailed.
Before the return match last week, Panionios coach made it clear that he needed his Iranian stars to be ready and on the field. He announced his decision well in advance of the match. But what was interesting, was the absolute silence from the IR Regime’s various mouthpieces, federations, and Basiji outfits. Most likely, they were just waiting to see what happens during the match and then come out with some sort of condemnation.
From the moment the players took the field and shook hands, it was clear that we were watching just another boring, low quality match with mostly average players and nothing more. There was no bad blood and the 7 yellow cards that were issued were for excessive fouls or too much talking. At one point, Haj Safi helped the Israeli player get up on his feet as is customary in most matches. Panionios lost 1-0 again and got eliminated.
We have seen the Regime’s reaction after the match and most likely there will be some meaningless banning of the players in the upcoming matches. But things will be back to normal as the national team gets ready for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
The two Iranian stars showed their professionalism and commitments to their club by what they did in both matches. Let’s all respect them and keep the politics out of sports.