Tag: Vouria Ghafouri

Possible sanctions against athletes.

Iranian athletes could face punishment if they don’t participate in annual Quds Day marches across the country later this month, according to IranWire, in what would be yet another example of state interference in sports.

The Islamic Republic’s authorities are organizing the rallies on the last Friday of the Islamic month of Ramadan, which this year falls on April 14, in solidarity with the Palestinians.

A directive seen by IranWire and signed by Karamali Iraji, the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Sports and Youth, says that athletes are required to attend the rallies, citing the “noble cause of…the Palestinian resistance,” a resolution of the Coordination Council for Islamic Propagation and instructions by the Tehran Governorate.

The directive was agreed upon last week during a meeting between Minister of Sports and Youth Hamid Sajjadi and his deputies.

The source at the Ministry of Sports and Youth who provided the document to IranWire said that copies were sent to all provincial sports boards across the country.

The ministry is considering possible incentives for athletes who will attend the state-sanctioned rallies and punishment for those who won’t, the source said.

Iranian sports has become increasingly politicized. Most sports bodies had been taken over by political or security-military organizations, with former members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps holding key positions in clubs and federations. Many footballers were sanctioned or punished for their support of the protests including Ali Karimi, Aldi Daei, Vouria Ghafouri.

Earlier this year, the European Union imposed sanctions on Sajjadi for pressuring Iranian athletes into silence, including climber Elnaz Rekabi who competed in South Korea without mandatory headscarves amid widespread anti-government protests inside Iran.

Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had “expressed serious concerns over the past few months vis-à-vis the situation of the Iranian athletes and the Olympic community as a whole in the current context of the upheavals and demonstrations in the country.”

The IOC has urged the Iranian National Olympic Committee to “take appropriate action with the highest authorities to protect the athletes and members of the Olympic community from a humanitarian perspective.”

The statement warned that the IOC Executive Board “reserves the right to take any appropriate action” relating to the participation of the Iranian NOC and athletes in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, “depending on the developments in this situation.”

Iran releases footballer Vouria Ghafouri, prominent dissident on bail, say reports

The arrest on Thursday of VoUria Ghafouri, who is Kurdish and had spoken out in support of the protests, had sparked an outcry as the Iranian team plays in the World Cup in Doha.

Agence France-Presse November 27, 2022 09:29:53 IST
FIFA World Cup: Iran releases footballer Voria Ghafouri, prominent dissident on bail, say reports

File image of former Iran international Voria Ghafouri. AP

Iranian authorities on Saturday released on bail former international footballer Voria Ghafouri and prominent dissident Hossein Ronaghi, two of the most prominent figures detained in the crackdown on the protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, reports said.

The arrest on Thursday of Ghafouri, who is Kurdish and had spoken out in support of the protests, had sparked an outcry as the Iranian team plays in the World Cup in Doha.

Ronaghi, meanwhile, had been detained since shortly after the protests started in mid-September, and concern had been growing about his health after he mounted a hunger strike lasting two months.

“Voria Ghafouri and Hossein Ronaghi were released on bail,” Iran’s Fars news agency said on its social media accounts.

The Iranian newspaper Shargh also said that Ghafouri had been released following his arrest during a training session on Thursday.

“Hossein was released tonight on bail to undergo treatment,” Hossein Ronaghi’s brother Hassan wrote on Twitter.

Their father Ahmad posted a picture of Hossein in hospital, saying he had been released after a hunger strike that lasted 64 days.

According to the UN, around 14,000 people have been arrested in the crackdown on the protests that erupted after the death of Amini who had been arrested by the Tehran morality police.

Among those detained are dozens of prominent journalists, cultural figures, lawyers, and also sportspeople .
Former Team Melli players, Parviz Broumand and Hossein Mahini have also been arrested and released recently.

Ghafouri, an outspoken figure who appeared 28 times for Iran up until 2019, was arrested after a club training session over accusations that he spread “propaganda” against the Islamic republic, Fars said on Thursday.

Originally from the Kurdish-populated city of Sanandaj in western Iran, Ghafouri had been particularly critical of the crackdown in Kurdish-populated areas of western Iran where activists say dozens have been killed in the last 10 days.

Ronaghi, 37, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, has for years been one of the most fearless critics of the Islamic republic still living in the country.

Ronaghi was taken to Evin prison after his arrest on September 24. His family had said he risks dying due to a kidney condition.

Other prominent figures remain in detention in the crackdown on the protests, which are seen as the biggest challenge to the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution.

They include the prominent dissidents Arash Sadeghi and Majid Tavakoli as well as journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi who helped expose the Amini case.

Renowned Iranian film-makers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof were meanwhile detained this year even before the current protest wave began.

Analyzing Wilmots’ selection.

Marc Wilmots started his first official match with Team Melli in the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers with a 2-0 win away to Hong Kong, is determined to build his own team rather than rely on the previous one created by Queiroz.

Morteza Mansouri
Morteza Mansouri (Sepahan)

In an evolutionary move, the Belgian head coach of Iran’s national team made a few changes to his players’ list for the next two matches against Cambodia at home and away to Bahrain. Wilmots is determined to show that he plans to evaluate and pick new players. The new squad list indicates that the Belgian coach has a great deal of confidence in the domestic League players, unlike his predecessor.

Wilmots invited Mohammad Mohebbi (21 Years) and Morteza Mansouri (29 years), two key players for current league leader Sepahan, for the first time. Wilmots’ decision to continue including Siavash Yazdani and Mohammad Naderi’s in the squad is another proof that he has much confidence in the domestic league players.

Although neither Yazdani or Naderi played in the match against Hong Kong, however, they were preferred over the experienced but ageing Vouria Ghafouri of Esteghlal. The four new players along with the regular defence players Majid Hosseini, Morteza Pouraliganji, Hossein Kanan-Zadegan will significantly lower the overall average age of Team Melli squad

The most notable omission in the list, however, must be the exclusion of Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who has been a regular fixture in the national team’s camps for the past seven years. Jahanbakhsh has just recovered from a slight knee injury and was a non-utilized bench player in today’s 3-0 Brighton win against Tottenham Hotspurs in the English Premier League.

Jahanbakhsh has been having an unfortunate time since his move to Brighton at the beginning to last season. The record signing by Brighton failed to score a single goal in all competitions last season. With the change of the head coach, Jahanbakhsh failed to even make it on the bench for his club and has yet to feature in the Premier League this season. His performance with Team Melli in the AFC Asian Cup was far from brilliant either.

Wilmots has also created a serious competition in goal for the ever-present Alireza Biranvand. In contention for the number one spot in the goal are Payam Niazmand and Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri, who have both managed to keep a clean sheet record after six weeks of Persian Gulf Premier League competition matches.

Biranvand, despite some flashes of brilliance, with the penalty save from Cristiano Ronaldo is the top of his achievements, has many suspect moments and quite a questionable temperament. Many critics believe that Niazmand is a better goalkeeper but lacks the international experience of Beiranvand.

Persepolis with five players, Tractorsazi Tabriz with four and Sepahan Isfahan with three players have the highest number in the new list of Team Melli squad. Esteghlal also has only two players after Vouria Ghafouri and Seyyed Hossein Hosseini were crossed off the final list.

Team Melli will play against Cambodia on Thursday, October 10, in Tehran and then travel to Bahrain to play against their national team on October 15th.

Team Melli Head Coach

Queiroz defends his selection

Portuguese head coach Queiroz left Persepolis captain Seyyed Jalal Hosseini and Esteghlal winger Vouria Ghaffouri out of his squad for next month’s FIFA World Cup, insisting before squad travel to Istanbul, that the decisions were purely based on tactical issues.

“We have to call only 23 players in our final list and we could not do anything else because of the rules and logistical issues,” Queiroz said in response to criticism and then talked about the important players who have no place in his squad.

Referring to Jalal Hosseini, Queiroz said: “I respect Jalal with all my heart, but this respect should be for the next generation of Iranian football as well. We need a younger Team Melli for the upcoming events and we have to move forward. I emphasize that Seyyed Jalal will remain on our waiting list and will join Team Melli if we need him.”

When asked about Vouria Ghaffouri, the coach answered: “I needed a solid right fullback in the national team, but at his club Esteghlal he was used as a right midfielder or winger, with the decision of head coach Winfried Schaefer. I have no idea why Mr. Schaefer was surprised by seeing Vouria is not in the squad. I don’t know why he’d say that. Mr. Schaefer does not believe in Vouria as a right back and has changed the player’s position.”

Queiroz’s reasoning has not convinced many experts with some accusing him of creating tension as result of his not-so-cordial relations  with the coaches of both clubs.

Team Melli travelled to Istanbul on Monday to hold a training camp in the European country. The Persians will face Turkey football team on May 29 in a friendly match as part of preparation for the 2018 World Cup.

Iran have been drawn in Group B of the 2018 World Cup along with Morocco, Spain and Portugal.

Ghafouri’s omission turns political.

Carlos Queiroz has never been too far from a controversy, conflict and downright confrontation with somebody or some organization.  He picks up verbal fights with anyone who dares to disagree with him and his lists of foe makes an interesting reading from his fellow trainers in Iran and outside to Head of charity organizations, journalists, TV presenters and his own staff.

This time, his adversary is not only a politician, a member of parliament, but also the issue is touching a sensitive political matter.

Following the release of Team Melli players list for the FIFA World Cup and the surprise omission of the names of Vouria Ghafouri (Esteghlal) and Seyyed Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis) from this list, a lot of criticisms of this move have been made by various sources. In the latest of such opposition to the move, the Kurdistan Provincial Sports and Youth General Director has reported the case to the parliament.

Hamid Joolayaei, in an interview with ISNA, said: ” Vouria Ghafouri’s omission has shocked the sports community, and for this reason, follow-up was needed with provincial authorities and parliamentarians.”

Referring to the fact that Ghafouri is still not entirely out of the squad (final list should be out by 4th June) , Ghafouri and several other players are on the waiting list for selection, and I hope he will return to the national team as results of the efforts we shall undertake.”

The director general of sports and youth of Kurdistan province continued to point out that the reason for Ghafouri’s exclusion is still unknown to anyone. He said “ Vouria Ghafouri has played well and was in form for Team Melli during this period and is currently is still in the AFC Champions League. It’s a surprise to be removed from the national team list without technical justification.”

Vouria Ghafouri

Vouria Ghafouri is from Kurdistan a minority community that had a long history of conflict and political struggle for independence. The government of Iran has always tried to ensure impartiality towards the minorities in the country and has attempted to eliminate any sense of injustice, prejudice or neglect in these provinces. The Kurds in particular has historically been one of Iran’s biggest worries. As such, this elimination of the only Kurdish Player, who happens to be an excellent player too, has raised more than a sporting question that could have other consequences. It certainly adds another dimension to what looks like a simple football selection decision.

Jalal Hosseini

Bijan Zulfagharnasab, one of the few Kurdish players to play for Team Melli, commented on the this subject. “Sometimes the coach is faced with a traffic jam in certain posts, a dilemma, and it is expected to give some of those players a break.”

Zulfagharnasab, pointing out that Vouria Ghafouri and Seyyed Jalal Hosseini are the two of the country’s leading players and experinced defenders , so their exclusion are quite surprising to say the least and raises questions”

Zulfagharnasab, did however note that  Vouria Ghafouri (30 years) and Seyyed Jalal Hosseini (36) are at an advanced age, said: “Given that the training and competition pressures are very high on the threshold of the World Cup, perhaps the national team coach, is giving the two players a rest for the game against Turkey so that they will be ready to take part in the World Cup.”

He recalled, “If Ghafouri and Hosseini have no disciplinary issues, they are more likely to be invited back to the national team.”

It is not clear whether the Iranian parliament will debate Carlos Queiroz’s decision on Ghafouri.