Iran government bars Masoud Shojaei, Ehsan Haji Safi after they faced Israelis
ESPN - Friday 11th August, 2017
Iran has barred two players from national team duty for life after they faced an Israeli club in the Europa League, a government official said on Thursday.
Iran captain Masoud Shojaei and midfielder Ehsan Haji Safi each played 90 minutes in Greek club Panionios' home leg of the third-round playoff against Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, after sitting out the first leg in Israel.
That violated Iran's longstanding prohibition on athletes facing opponents from Israel, a nation that is not recognized by Iran's government.
The New York Times said Iran's Parliament denounced the two players last weekend, and quoted Iran's deputy sports minister Mohammad Reza Davarzani as telling state television on Thursday: "It is certain that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi will never be invited to join the national football team because they violated the red line."
Iran's national team could face sanctions from FIFA, which forbids political interference in international football.
Iran already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, becoming the first Asian team to do so, in June. Shojaei played 70 minutes in the clinching win over Uzbekistan, while Haji Safi was on the bench.
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