Thursday, June 13, 2024
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After protest: Azmoun is substituted and scores for Iran

Bayer Leverkusen’s Iranian international Sardar Azmoun was initially only on the bench in the test match against Senegal after his statements in favour of women’s rights in the Gulf state. But immediately after his substitution he scored the final goal to make it 1-1.

In light of the unrest in his homeland following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, Azmoun took a clear stand against the regime there via Instagram. The extent to which there will be sporting consequences for him remains to be seen.

The match in Maria Enzersdorf in Austria against Senegal could have given a first hint. Several people had previously demonstrated against the regime in Tehran outside the stadium. Only a few selected spectators were allowed for the match, so no protests were possible in the stands. One of the spectators was England coach Gareth Southgate, who wanted to scrutinise his group opponents at the World Cup.

In the starting line-up, Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz had still left Azmoun out. Senegal initially took the lead after 55 minutes through an own goal by Pouraliganji. Azmoun was substituted three minutes later and scored soon after from close range with a header to make it 1-1 (64th).

At the World Cup, Iran will face England, the USA and Wales. Whether the 27-year-old will be there then is currently open, but he knows what could be in store for him. “Because of the national team rules, we were not allowed to say anything, but I can’t take any more silence. The ultimate punishment would be that they kick me out of the team, but that would be a small sacrifice compared to every single strand of hair of an Iranian woman,” his post had read.

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