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Behind the Curtain | Controversial End to Iran Soccer Match

by ARASH KARAMI and NEGAR MORTAZAVI

11 Apr 2012 22:44Comments

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Arash Karami is a frequent Tehran Bureau contributor. Negar Mortazavi is an Iranian journalist based in Washington, D.C. This is the second entry in their new blog, "Behind the Curtain."
[ blog ] A soccer match between Tehran's Persepolis and Gilan's Damash was abruptly ended by the referee after he faced verbal abuse from Persepolis fans for making several controversial calls. Mahmoud Rafei blew the whistle and walked the ball off the pitch at Tehran's Azadi Stadium after fans made sexually profane remarks regarding his sister. Damash was ahead 2 to 1 when the referee stopped play just before full time.

Persepolis, the famous Tehran team known as the Reds and the Red Army, was declared the loser of the match and fined $5,000 due to the behavior of its fans. According to Hossein Askari, vice chairman of the Football Federation Referee Committee, the referee will also face a ban.

Persepolis captain Ali Karimi, who attempted to play peacemaker on the field between the fans and the referee, admitted that his team had "played poorly...Damash deserved the win." He said that he didn't see anything wrong with the refereeing and put the blame on "impatient" fans, although he added that "profanity exists in many games...and not just against the referee but against the players."

Soccer enthusiasts are divided over the issue. Some are blaming the referee for overstepping his authority. Others have blamed the Persepolis players for instigating the fans by excessively challenging the referee's calls. Amir Haji Rezaei, a famous Iranian football expert, said that soccer coaches and management who like to attribute losses to "refereeing, weather, and altitude" share some of the responsibility. He added that "the main loser of Sunday's game was Iranian soccer."

Copyright © 2012 Arash Karami and Negar Mortazavi

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