The Iranian Football Association have “strongly condemned” two Israeli footballers – Ehsan Hajsafi and Masoud Shojaei – after they played against Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday evening.
Fars news agency reported how the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation attacked the players, who play for Greek side Panionios, for taking to the pitch against their “Zionist regime representative”.
Saying how they “condemned the incident” and that they would “thoroughly examine the full extent of the matter”, the two players had refused to travel to Israel for last week’s first leg, but played the full 90 minutes of the second leg.
Hajsafi and Shojaei have represented the Iranian national team at both World Cup and Asian Cups, with the Federation statement adding:
“Undoubtedly, proud Iranian athletes have always shown that they have no interest in competing against the occupying Zionist regime, even at the Olympic Games and World Cup. As a result, the duo could face a possible ban from playing for their national team, with a Sports Ministry official saying they will be “dealt with according to the rules”.
Maccabi Tel Aviv won the game 1-0, to secure a 2-0 aggregate lead and in doing so, became the top-scoring Israeli side in European football competition, edging one goal ahead of Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv’s 157 goals.