PLDC - Iranian outspoken football star Ali Karimi has turned down FIFA’s invitation for attending the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
In a statement, Karimi pointed to the ongoing protests in Iran and foreign media’s failure to cover the issue.
“As you know, the people of Iran are currently going through a very difficult time. The international media largely ignores our struggles. Right now, there are more important issues for me than Football and I want to be with my people and be their voice,” he wrote.
This came as two other prominent ex-football players namely Ali Daei and Javad Nekounam also rejected invitations to travel to Doha for the world event, citing the same reasoning.
Numerous athletes have openly voiced support for the protests in Iran which erupted in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Meanwhile, there had been growing pressure from some activists on FIFA to eliminate Iran’s national football team from the World Cup. However, the world football body did not opt to do so and urged all to refrain from politics.
Before departing for Doha on Monday, some members of the national football team and officials from the football federation held a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi. The meeting sparked widespread criticism among netizens who believed players shouldn’t have met Raeisi as a show of solidarity with the Iranian people.
Reacting to the meeting, Yahya Golmohammadi, head coach of Persepolis, said “this was the best opportunity for players to carry the voice of oppressed and bereaved Iranian people to authorities, however, you will gain no more than zero in the course of morals.”