Iran international top scorer Ali Daei said on Monday he had turned down an invitation to attend the World Cup in Qatar next week in solidarity with Iranian protesters.
“I have rejected the official invitation from FIFA and the Qatar Football Federation to attend the World Cup with my wife and daughters,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I prefer to be next to you in my homeland and express my sympathy to all the families who have lost loved ones these days,” Daei added.
The 53-year-old Iranian football legend scored 109 goals for Iran between 1993 and 2006, a record broken by Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo last year.
Daei has been a vocal supporter of nationwide protests across Iran, which erupted when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in September after being arrested by Iranian vice police.
“Instead of repression, violence and arrest of the Iranian people, solve their problems,” Daei wrote in another Instagram post in September.
CNN has reached out to Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for comment.
Former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf has welcomed Daei’s decision not to travel to Qatar.
“You are a true spiritual leader to your people my friend,” Seedorf said in a comment to Daei’s post on Monday.
“I admire you for your courage, your kindness and your leadership. Peace is what I wish can be achieved as soon as possible. I love you very much, your family and all the brothers and sisters of Iran.
An activist group, the United for Navid campaign, had told CNN that Daei’s passport had been confiscated for his vocal support of the protests. CNN could not verify this claim.
Daei is not the only Iranian athlete to protest against the government.
Last month, a law firm sent a letter to FIFA on behalf of a group of former and current Iranian sports figures urging the football governing body to suspend the Football Federation of Iran (FFIRI) and ban it to participate in this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The letter states that the actions of the Iranian Football Federation violate FIFA statutes and regulations.
“Iran’s brutality and belligerence towards its own people has reached a tipping point, demanding an unequivocal and firm dissociation from the world of football and sport,” said a press release issued alongside the letter.
The letter was signed by, among others, Mohammad Reza Faghani, a licensed FIFA referee, Vahid Sarlak, Asian judo champion and member of the Iranian national team, and Shiva Amini, a former player of the women’s national team. of futsal.
Elsewhere, after scoring a goal in the Emirates Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup final, Saeed Piramoon mimicked his haircut – a move signaling his support for nationwide protests in the country calling for more freedoms for women – an act that the Iranian football authorities have pledged to deal with. with.
Football player Sardar Azmoun has also potentially risked not being selected for the World Cup after criticizing the government.
“Worth sacrificing for a lock of Iranian women’s hair,” Azmoun wrote in an Instagram Story. “Shame on you who kill people so easily. Long live Iranian women.
However, Azmoun was named in Iran’s World Cup squad on Sunday.
Azmoun, 27, suffered a calf injury during the warm-up for Bayer Leverkusen’s Champions League game against Porto on October 4 and has not played for the German club since.
Azmoun was expected to be out for six to eight weeks, according to Leverkusen.