Iranian footballer Alireza Jahanbakhsh is “very excited” to play alongside his two new Israeli teammates after he became Brighton’s record transfer signing.
Jahanbakhsh became the most expensive Iranian footballer of all time when he joined the Seagulls from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar for a club record transfer fee of £20 million, where he is set to line up alongside Israelis Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal.
With Iran not recognising Israel – and banning its athletes from appearing against Israelis, Jahanbakhsh refused to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2015, when he was with Alkmaar, though his stance has now seemingly changed.
His spokesman said he was excited about playing alongside them, and referring back to the 2015 incident, said: “Alireza was young when Alkmaar played the Israeli team and he was afraid about his future. It’s not an issue when Iranian players play with Israeli teammates – only if they play against them.
“At the end of the day football is a profession. I can tell you that Reza is very excited to play alongside a Jewish teammate and to show that in football, they are all one. He is very excited for his time in England.”
Hemed and Jahanbakhsh did play alongside each other in Brighton’s final pre-season match on Friday, when the Israeli, on as a first half substitute, scored his second pre-season goal in a 2-1 win over Nantes. Jahanbakhsh came on as a 71st minute substitute, while Beram Kayal was an unused substitute.