Sports and policy | Iran and the World Cup carrot

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Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Link to Associated Press story.Zurich | FIFA stanched cries from German Green Party politicians to oust Iran from the World Cup finals following Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s public denial of the Holocaust Wednesday in the southeastern city of Zahedan, Iran. Spokesman Andreas Herren said, “FIFA strictly separates sports from politics.” Ahmadinejad had earlier made anti-Israel comments, and while Green politicians such as Angelika Beer said the latest absurdities justified FIFA’s ultimate sanction, German commentators were not so sure. In a Deutsche Welle survey of the German media reaction, Sí¼ddeutsche Zeitung writes, “E]xcluding Iran from the World Cup would be like a national tragedy,” predicting dire consequences for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. “The Olympic boycotts in Moscow and Los Angeles showed diplomacy is helpless when it applies the thumbscrews where they will politically and economically hurt the least,” adds Leipziger Volkszeitung.

Proposals to exclude Iraq, based on Ahmadinejad’s extremism, actually began before the World Cup draw on Dec 9. Cologne club president and 1974 World Cup gold medalist Wolfgang Overath based his protests regarding Iran’s place on the Iranian president’s suggestions that Israel relocate to Europe. Yet Siavush Randjbar-Daemi, a freelancer for Italian daily Il Messaggero and poster on Web log Iranian Truth, also feels that excluding Iran would be “overkill.” “Much is said about the average Tehran teenager’s lust for pop music, holding his girlfriend’s hand in public places and partying,” Randjbar-Daemi writes. “But he is also an avid football fan. Banning [Iran] from Germany 2006 would be no less of an insult to him than seeing his Pink Floyd cut off by that same West.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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