The world of football and politics

by Lorraine Williamson
Celia Cogedor protests for her son´s release

On Sunday, the biggest football match in the world took place with people from all over the globe watching. However, behind all the glitz and glamour of the football world, there is another side not so well known.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup brought much controversy to this prestigious football event. Players, celebrities, and fans were opposed to the lack of human rights by the host country of Qatar. Furthermore, threats were brought against players if they disobeyed FIFA and wore “One Love” armbands.

The armbands are part of a campaign to show solidarity, promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind.

Also read: Spain approves transgender law

Santiago Sánchez Cogedor

In November, reported on the journey of football mad, Santiago Sanchez Cogedor as he trekked from Madrid towards Qatar. However, in October, when he arrived in Iran, all communication stopped.

It was later learned that he had been arrested for apparently taking photographs of the grave of Masha Amini. Amini, also known as Jina Amini was a 22-year-old Iranian woman who had been arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women by not wearing the hijab correctly.  Her arrest, and subsequent death sparked protests and demonstrations in the Islamic country.

Official statements said she had a heart attack and fell into a coma before she died. However, there are allegations stating she was severely beaten and would have died because of possible head injuries due to police brutality.

Masha has since become a symbol of resistance and women‘s rights in Iran.

Meanwhile, back in Spain, Santiago´s mother has been pleading for his release. Several relatives and friends protested outside the Tehran embassy in Madrid at the weekend.

Santiago Sánchez Cogedor and Ana Baneira

Ana Baneira

In November, a second Spanish citizen was arrested in Iran. The reason for the arrest of 24-year-old Galician, Ana Baneira is still unknown. Baneira is an environmentalist, and previously volunteered for Caritas. She is also a football referee.

According to EuroNews, Two Iranians: Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard were executed in early December. “Don’t cry, don’t read the Koran, don’t pray, be joyful and listen to music”, said Majidreza Rahnavard just before being hung. These are the first protesters to be sentenced to death in Iran since the beginning of the demonstrations.

Amir Nasr Azadani

Amir Nasr Azadani, an Iranian football player was detained last Sunday. It is alleged, he is suspected by Iran’s authorities to have taken part in an “armed group” responsible for the killing of three Iranian security forces.

Shakira took to Twitter to highlight his arrest. She tweeted, “Today at the final of the World Cup, I only hope the players on the field and the whole world remembers that there’s a man and fellow footballer called Amir Nasr, on death row, only for speaking in favour of Women’s rights.”

FIFRO, the global union for professional football players throughout the world Tweeted, “FIFPRO is shocked and sickened by reports that professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution in Iran after campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country. We stand in solidarity with Amir and call for the immediate removal of his punishment”.

The footballer who plays for FC Iranjavan Bushehr was arrested in the city of Isfahan after allegedly taking part in an “armed riot” in which three security agents were killed on September 16, Isfahan‘s judiciary chief Abdullah Jafari said, quoted by Iran’s ISNA news agency.

Jafari said the 26-year-old had been accused of “rebellion, membership in illegal gangs, collusion to undermine security and therefore assisting in “moharabeh” or ”emnity against God”. This is a capital crime in the Islamic republic.

During the XVII annual gala of the Spanish Olympic Committee, President Sánchez, also commented on his condemnation of the arrest. He stated “May the voice of universal sport rise up in defense of their right to live“.

However, Amir is not the only footballer being punished for speaking out.

Voria Ghafouri

Last month, another football player, Voria Ghafouri, 35, was arrested over claims he was “spreading propaganda”.

According to foxsports, another six athletes are known to have been executed for voicing their opinion.

England v Iran (Group Stage – Group B)

Meanwhile, Iran ‘s national team had been warned they could face prison or death after they refused to sing along with the national anthem ahead of their game in Qatar against England. However, FIFA´s broadcast restrictions prevented footage from being shown.

According to ABCnews, at least 15,000 people have been arrested in Iran since the protests against the death of Masha Amini began.

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