Iran foot­ball fans banned from cel­e­brat­ing on holy day

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ira­nian foot­ball fans faced a tricky bal­anc­ing act yes­ter­day as they watched their team win against South Korea dur­ing a re­li­gious hol­i­day in which they were banned from ex­press­ing joy. Many took part in mourn­ing pro­ces­sions as they gath­ered at the 75,000ca­pac­ity Azadi (“free­dom”) sta­dium in Tehran to mark the eve of Ashura, one of the holi­est days in the Ira­nian cal­en­dar. For Shi­ite Mus­lims, Ashura marks the death of Prophet Mo­hammed’s (PBUH) grand­son Imam Hus­sein in the sev­enth cen­tury, and is tra­di­tion­ally a day of som­bre pro­ces­sions through the streets, in which black-clad men beat their chests and heads in anger and de­spair.

So it proved con­tro­ver­sial with re­li­gious lead­ers when the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC) match against South Korea was sched­uled for the day be­fore. “Bear in mind that if foot­ball is go­ing to be played on the eve of the Ashura, the at­mos­phere of this match must be 100 per­cent in line with Ashura,” warned Fri­day prayer leader Ayatollah Ali Mo­va­hedi Ker­mani last week, ac­cord­ing to the ISNA news agency.

“The en­tire sta­dium must be cov­ered in black and shouts of Hus­sein must be heard con­stantly from the crowd. In­stead of the clap­ping in these games, all should shout ‘Ya Hus­sein’,” he said.

The game, broad­cast live on state tele­vi­sion, showed a solemn black sta­dium packed with sub­dued spec­ta­tors wear­ing black. Iran beat South Korea 1-0 with Sar­dar Az­moun’s goal 24 min­utes into the first half.

Two big signs in­stalled in the Azadi com­plex read in English “Hus­sein, the ark of sal­va­tion” and “Hus­sein, the ev­er­last­ing voice of jus­tice”. Be­tween the two halves, re­li­gious singers came on the field and per­formed solemn re­li­gious songs about Imam Hus­sein.

Two enor­mous black flags with Hus­sein’s name were un­furled in­side the sta­dium. “Spec­ta­tors and play­ers of both coun­tries have been briefed to ob­serve re­li­gious codes,” General Alireza Adeli, the in­te­rior min­istry’s po­lice chief, told the Tas­nim news agency be­fore the match. — AFP

TEHRAN: Iran’s sup­port­ers celer­bate their open­ing goal dur­ing the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing foot­ball match be­tween Iran and South Korea at the Azadi Sta­dium in Tehran yes­ter­day. — AFP

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