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Is all fair at FIFA?

June 23, 2009

At last week’s World Cup qualifying match against South Korea, players from the Iranian squad sported green arm bands in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement taking place in Iran.  These players have since been banned in Iran from the sport for life, and have had their passports taken from them (there goes the career with Real Madrid instead).  FIFA asked that the players remove the bands at half-time, in compliance with their strict policy banning political displays.

I agree with FIFA that politics and sports should be separate.  I am however outraged that FIFA has not adhered to its own principals.  This past winter, when Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied a visa by the government of Dubai for a tournament because of political reasons, the Women’s Tennis Association reprimanded Dubai for its political interference.  FIFA has an ethical obligation to reprimand the government of Iran for banning these players for their political beliefs.  They may have violated FIFA rules on the field that day, however many players did comply with the request to remove their bands.  And if the political display was so egregious, then FIFA should discipline them, not their government.

FIFA has banned Iran in the recent past, and while it would be another crushing blow to Iran’s soccer fans (they lost in the qualifier against South Korea) a new ban may be in order until these players are either allowed to play again, or at least until their passports are given back to them so that they may play elsewhere.

6/26 UPDATE:  Acording to YNet the Iranian Football Federation claims they never punished any of the Iranian national players… yeah, and the BBC killed Neda.

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