After Iran bans two soccer players for playing against Israelis, fans rush to their defense – Los Angeles Times

Two soccer players have been barred for life from Iran’s national team after they appeared in a match against players from Israel, prompting anger among the sport’s many fans in the Islamic Republic.

Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi played last week in a European league match for the Greek team Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv, an Israeli club. That appeared to violate a longstanding rule prohibiting Iranian athletes from competing against opponents from Israel, a nation that the Iranian government doesn’t recognize.

After the match, a Farsi-language Twitter account maintained by the Israeli foreign ministry posted a message: “Well done to Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi who broke the taboo of not playing in matches against Israeli athletes.”

On Wednesday, Iran’s deputy sports minister, Mohammad Reza Davarzani, said in an interview with Mizan news agency, the mouthpiece of Iran’s judiciary, that the players would no longer be allowed on the national soccer team.

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