One of the most hottest issues in world politics is the Palestine-Israeli conflict. This is a conflict as old as time. Time and time again the animosity spills into the sports arena. Another conflict which is just as old if not nasty is the one between Iran and Israel. It is known as the quiet war of the Middle East. Now the object of my focus today is a soccer player named Mehdi Mahdavikia who is an Iranian former national team player turned coach. He is the player who scored the winner against USA at World Cup France 1998.Mehdi recently participated in a friendly match in Qatar donning a jersey with flags of a number of countries including Israel which is of course a member of FIFA. This caused an uproar in Iran among the ultra nationalist in that country accusing Mehdi of treachery. A lawmaker even went as far as to say he must publicly apologize and face “trial”. Just how did Iran and Israel become enemies for life?
Well, it started in the 10 years after World War two. As history has it, the Jewish people had been brutalized and persecuted by the Nazis. Some died in concentration camps but a number survived and were stateless since the Hitler regime had revoked their citizenships. The answer to this was the Jewish State of Israel being created and guaranteed by the winning allies. So they moved there exactly where the Palestinian people resided. Save to say the Palestinians didn’t like that. Thus the conflict. Iran sided with certain groups that fought Israel like Hamas. Thus a proxy war started between the two nations. The two countries are also thought to possess nuclear weapons which makes this situation a precarious one. There has been confrontations on land and sea between them, one notable one is the gas station cyber attack in Iran. Iran couldn’t dispense fuel in gas stations accusing Israel of having a hand in the sabotage. Now back to Mehdi. I think the issue is blown out of proportion and bought by politicians with mileage to gain.
How do you expect a player with a game to play to start looking for flags of enemies of his government? Way too much isn’t it. Politics and Sport do not mix. That is why FIFA advocates for non interference by politicians. It creates awkward situations like this one. The Iranian soccer federation has come out in support of Mehdi which is the right thing to do, showing leadership where it is easy to throw the player under the bus. Iran has also banned its sportspersons from playing against Israel. This is an absurd ban seeing that Iran has faced USA on a number of occasions( another Iran sworn enemy) is soccer and other disciplines which smacks of double standards anyway. What Mehdi can do is just ride the wave and let the issue lose steam with time and life goes on and the politicians focus on other more important issues.