03/23/2019, 10.21
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Iran bans tattooed footballers from national teams

The Ethics Committee of the Iranian Football Association declares war on players with body paintings. In the Islamic Republic, athletes are seen as role models, especially for young people. for the country’s hard-line religious leadership, tattoos are a symbol of "westernisation" and part of a "cultural invasion". Ashkan Dejagah’s story is an example.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – The Iranian Football Federation has declared war on tattooed players who will no longer be allowed to play for the national team, this according to Iranian media reports.

Iran’s political-clerical rulers ordered the Ethics Committee of Iran's Football Federation not to call up tattooed players.

"The Iranian Football Federation has been told it must prevent to invite (sic) the tattooed players to the national team," the Tehran Times daily reported.

Football is one of the most popular sports on Iranian TV with a great following among families. For this reason, the authorities want to tighten their control over the game and the players.

In the Islamic Republic, athletes are seen as role models, especially those in the major national sports like football, wrestling or weightlifting, and are expected to uphold and promote Islamic values and virtues, especially vis-à-vis youth and children.

Official media and the hard-line clerical establishment have always branded tattoos as a symbol of "westernisation" and part of a "cultural invasion" from the west in Muslim societies.

"Tattoos on the bodies of players is against Iranian culture and is detrimental to our society," a top official said.

Like many international players (for example, Argentina’s Leo Messi, Spain’s Sergio Ramos and Italy’s Daniele de Rossi), some Iranian players have tattoos on their arms but always enter the playing field with long-sleeved tops.

Anyone breaking the rule would be reprimanded by the Ethics Committee. For instance, Ashkan Dejagah and Sardar Azmoon were summoned by the Committee for revealing tattoos on their arms during some matches by Iran men's national football team (Team Melli).

Last summer German-born Dejagah, who plays for Tractor Sazi Tabriz Football Club in the Persian Gulf Pro League, Iran’s top football league, was targeted by the commission for posting pictures on his Instagram profile that were deemed indecent.

Making matters worse, the national team captain who is the country’s best midfielder, posted pictures of his wife without the traditional hijab covering her head.

Dejagah, who has played for Wolfsburg, Fulham and Nottingham Forest in the past, has appeared with the national team for 45 times, always wearing long-sleeved tops.

However, pictures on his social media accounts were enough to anger the moral guardians of the Islamic Republic.

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