In a rare occurrence, two Iranian have competed against Israelis in a sporting match.
And they even received praise from some Iranians.
While the Europa League third qualifying round match between Panionios of Athens and Maccabi will probably not last long in the memories of either set of fans, the appearance on the pitch of Iranians Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi in the Greek capital has not gone unnoticed back home.
Some social media users praised the footballers, who both wore green, white and red wristbands representing the Iranian flag, for disregarding the ban.
“Why have talented athletes been wasted by this taboo? Breaking this taboo is a big development. Let’s be with them whatever the cost may be,” one user tweeted.
“The ‘concerned ones’ [Iranian hardliners] will now start insulting them, saying that Islam has been put in danger,” said another Twitter user, posting a video showing the two players walking out on the field with their teammates.
But not to worry. Most Iranians on social media who commented blasted them for competing.
‘Fistful of dirty dollars’
But they appear to be in the minority, with many saying that the footballers should have skipped the match. Neither player was in the squad which travelled to Tel Aviv for last week’s first leg.
Posting on its official Telegram channel, hardline Iranian news agency Raja News blasted Shojaei and Hajsafi for ignoring their “national and moral responsibility under the pretext of professional obligations”; while another Twitter user was more to the point: “Shame on you Ehsan and Masoud, for recognising those vampires for a fistful of dirty dollars.”
Was this an act of sportsmanship by the two? I doubt it. It seems like they were initially not going to compete
Looks like Iranian duo Ehsan Hajsafi & Masoud Shojaei will refuse to play Maccabi Tel Aviv in Greece as well. Very disappointing.
— Raphael Gellar (@Raphael_Gellar) July 21, 2017
But were read the riot act by their Greek club
— Johnny Georgopoulos (@YanniRamone) August 2, 2017
Here’s hoping for the day something like this isn’t even news.