Iran General NewsIran police alert before World Cup qualifier match

Iran police alert before World Cup qualifier match

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Reuters: Security was tight at Tehran’s Azadi stadium on Wednesday ahead of a World Cup soccer qualifier against Bahrain which could spark wild street celebrations if the Iranian team wins. Iran needs a draw to repeat its feats of 1978 and 1998 by joining the world’s soccer elite at the World Cup Finals in Germany next summer. Reuters

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN – Security was tight at Tehran’s Azadi stadium on Wednesday ahead of a World Cup soccer qualifier against Bahrain which could spark wild street celebrations if the Iranian team wins.

Iran needs a draw to repeat its feats of 1978 and 1998 by joining the world’s soccer elite at the World Cup Finals in Germany next summer.

In the past, raucous post-match celebrations with young people dancing in the streets have turned political with many shouting slogans against the clerical state’s rulers and smashing windows of public buildings.

The game comes ahead of presidential elections June 17, pitting former members of Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards against outspoken reformists and pro-business pragmatist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

“All the necessary measures have been taken for a peaceful match,” Tehran police spokesman Mohammad Tourang told Reuters. “We are ready to control those who will try to create unrest.”

Soccer is a national obsession in Iran and the match has comfortably overshadowed lacklustre interest in the elections.

“This is a good chance for the establishment. If they let us celebrate, we will change our minds and vote,” joked Mina, 17.

The youth vote is important with half the population under the age of 25 and a minimum voting age of 15.

Witnesses said security was heavy around the 100,000 capacity stadium.

“To secure people’s safety, only 70,000 fans are allowed to show up for the match,” said Tourang.

Analysts said post-match celebrations were an excuse for the young to vent their frustrations at limited political and social freedoms in the Islamic state.

Hours before the game, cars toured the streets hooting their horns and teenagers waved Iran’s national flag, while police kept a watchful eye.

“We will definitely win. I will dance and celebrate until morning,” said university student Mostafa, 21.

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