World union ‘shocked’ as Iranian soccer player may face death penalty over protests

A picture obtained from the Iranian Mizan News Agency on December 12, 2022, shows the public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard, in Iran’s Mashhad city. (MIZAN NEWS / AFP)

PARIS — The world union of professional soccer players FIFPRO said it was “shocked and sickened” by the risk of Iranian soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani being sentenced to death in connection with protests which have shaken the country for three months.

Nasr-Azadani was arrested in the city of Isfahan two days 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 Sunday 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 “enmity against God” — a capital crime in the Islamic Republic.

“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,” the union wrote on its Twitter page late Monday.

“We stand in solidarity with Amir and call for the immediate removal of his punishment.”

The alarm comes after a global outcry following the execution by Iran in the past days of two young men arrested over the protests.

Nasr-Azadani, who played at Under-16 level for the national team, began his soccer career with Tehran team Rah-Ahan, with whom he played for the first time in Iran’s top flight league.

The defender briefly played for Tractor SC under former Wales coach John Toshack and is currently at FC Iranjavan Bushehr.

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