Soccer in Iran, pending Azadani

This week the great derby of Tehran between Persepolis and the Esteghlal, a match of maximum rivalry that was played without an audience “due to pollution problems” in the capital, according to the authorities. The gestures of solidarity with the protests that the Islamic republic has been experiencing for more than three months are repeated among players and the public and the regime tries by all means to avoid them, for this reason no one was surprised by the closure of the stands “by pollution”. The death of the young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Morality Police shakes the streets and spreads to the stadiums.

Soccer is a global showcase and soccer players, characters who, match by match, gain fame and recognition from the press and the public. When Amir Nasr Azadani made his debut in 2014 for Tehran’s Rah Ahan, one of the country’s oldest clubs, he dreamed of one day becoming captain of the team melli (national team) and play a World Cup. It did not occur to him that eight years later he would be in prison, accused of belonging to an armed group, implicated in the death of three security agents and pending the final decision on his death sentence.

Azadani’s possible hanging sentence has shocked the football world and messages of solidarity are pouring in, but Isfahan’s chief judge, asadollah jafarY, has made it clear that the court will act “without paying attention to the media campaigns”.

After his irruption in the elite of national football, Azadani He signed for Tractor Sazi de Tabriz, in the west of the country, with the aim of consolidating himself on the right side. The page Transfermarket He then raised his market value to 300,000 euros as a promise of national football who had excelled in the lower teams of the national team.

After a season in the Tabriz squad, which in those years had John Toshack as ephemeral coach and which is currently led by Paco Jémez, a serious knee injury kept him off the pitch. Once recovered he had to go down a step to look for minutes in the Goal Reyhan Alborz from Karaj, of the second division. Azadani broke his knee again and returned to the operating room.

Injuries did not allow him to return to the elite and he began his journey through lower division teams such as Sepahan Novin, from his native Isfahan, or Iranjavan Bushehr, the last club with which he had a contract. Since June 2022, Azadani is a free agent and is looking for a team.

As has happened with other cases, the footballer’s family is under pressure from the authorities in the form of “threats“, according to the opposition portal Iran Wire, “so that they remain silent and do not make statements.” In the battle for the story, the regime wants to avoid situations like the one experienced with Amini’s family, which as soon as they receive the body of the The young man was denounced that he had signs of mistreatment when the official version of the Morality Police was that he died of a heart problem. The usual strategy of the regime is to blackmail families with “promises of reduced sentences for detainees in exchange for their silence”reports Iran Wire.

investigation pending

The charges against Azadani are for “armed revolt” and the case is pending in-depth investigation by the revolutionary court, which accuses him of having taken part in the death of three security agents at the end of November, during the protests in Isfahan.

His name is added to that of Varia Ghafouri, defense of kurdistan Iran that he came to play in the national team and that at 35 he is captain of Foolad, on the list of footballers arrested in the protests. Azadani’s situation is even more serious because his death sentence can be confirmed at any moment in a country where two 23-year-olds have already been executed. International organizations denounce that the sentences come after fast trials and without guarantees for the accused.

In addition to international support, Iranian football legends such as Ali Karimi or Mehdi Mahdevikia have called for the execution to be suspended. Despite the threat of reprisals from the regime, also active footballers such as Mohammad Reza Akhbari, current captain and goalkeeper of Tractor Sazi where Azadani played, show their support for him publicly. Akhbari took to Instagram to say that “Those of us who know Amir closely know how reserved he is. I ask the world of football to come to his aid.”. The list of colleagues who leave their support messages on networks grows every day.

The Tehran derby ended with a draw at two and the tears of Arsalan Motaheri, one of the scorers of the night for the blues of the Steghlal. The national television cameras offered a replay of his goal in an empty Azadi stadium, but turned the focus away from the player at the moment of the celebration. Motaheri had nothing to celebrate and burst into tears, according to sports journalists who followed the match. A few tears for the situation of Iranians like Ghafouri, his teammate for six seasons in the capital team, and especially Azadani, waiting for the gallows.

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Soccer in Iran, pending Azadani