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‘You did not become champions today – you became eternal’

Ahmadinejad: ‘Iran is going to the 2010 World Cup, the evidence is readily available’ This was the jibe tweet at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested re-election and what some may well see as his gall to call himself the elected President of Iran despite the ‘readily available’ evidence. 

Iran’s football team was in Seoul on Wednesday for a World Cup qualifier game against South Korea. The game ended in a 1-1 draw and Iran failed to qualify for the World Cup. In recent days Iran, gripped by a political crisis, has seen protests on a scale unprecedented since the 1979 revolution that created the Islamic Republic. For a couple of hours today the demonstrations seemed relatively smaller, leading some to even predict that the protests may well have lost their momentum. But then the World Cup qualifier transmitted live on Iranian television ended and the people started pouring on the streets. 

Iranians are passionate about football and take such significant competition losses with a typical Persian melancholy gloom that may be rare in many parts of the world. But today Iran’s football team was a cause of celebration for many. 

Seven of Iran’s national players wore green armbands – the campaign colour of Mir Hossein Mousavi – in solidarity with the massive crowds in Iran protesting against what they believe was a fraudulent election. According to journalists at the scene, the players were ordered by the head of Iran’s football federation to take the bands off. This was a brave move on the part of the players, as they will have to face the fury of the authorities on their return to Iran. I’ve translated a few samples of the sudden flood of support for the protesting players that appeared online during the game:

* You did not become champions today, you became eternal
* You did not abandon the students that are being beaten up for a week right now, you did not abandon the mourning families, you chose today to stand with the millions that are shouting against dictatorship
* They have conquered our hearts and proved they are champions
* We will never forget your bravery
* For the innocent ordinary people on the streets and alley ways… that are being so viciously assaulted and with no media to represent them… What do you think was more gratifying? Qualifying for the World Cup? Or having so many see their green protest?
* We won. We don’t want the World Cup, we want honour and dignity that you proved we had.

For more background on Iran see New Internationalist 398

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