AP: Three former Iran players threatened to protest at the World Cup if their country’s hardline president attends. Associated Press
By DAVID RISING
Associated Press Writer
BERLIN (AP) – Three former Iran players threatened to protest at the World Cup if their country’s hardline president attends.
They also urged host Germany to halt talks with the Tehran government over tournament security.
The players, members of dissident group the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said Wednesday they would protest any attempt to “politicize” the World Cup with a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The German government has resisted calls to bar Ahmadinejad from the June 9-July 9 tournament for threatening Israel and denying the Holocaust happened. He has not indicated whether he plans to attend and Iranian embassy spokesman A.M. Ramazan said Wednesday he had no comment.
“Don’t let the Mullahs misuse the World Cup, the World Cup is a place for peaceful and civilized people, not a warmongering regime,” said Hassan Nayeb-Agah, who played at the 1978 World Cup. “Don’t let Mahmoud Ahmadinejad misuse the World Cup the same way Hitler did the 1936 Olympic Games.”
Nayeb-Agah was joined at a news conference by former teammate Bahram Mavadat and Asghar Adibi, a member of the Iran team from 1968-74.
Authorities have worried that Iranian opposition groups, with hundreds of members in Germany, might stage violent protests during the tournament.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center launched an international campaign urging FIFA to bar Ahmadinejad from attending the World Cup. In a letter to FIFA president Joseph Blatter, rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper said:
“The World Cup is a time of celebration by billions of people of the universal values of fair play and sportsmanship, inclusion and tolerance. Unfortunately, President Ahmadinejad has forfeited his right to attend the World Cup. He has endorsed genocide against Israel, vilified the Jewish people, and labeled the Nazi Holocaust and the murder of six million innocent men, women and children a myth. His attendance would be a desecration of the memory of their loved ones and a mockery of their suffering.”
Deputy interior minister August Hanning has said that, during talks in Tehran, it was agreed that German and Iranian authorities would cooperate over any possible threats to the Iran team during the tournament.
“When the Iranians fear a threat, they will tell us their reasons. Then our evaluation will flow back to Tehran,” Hanning told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
But the former players insisted their group has no history of violence and urged Germany to stop co-operating with Iran on security.
“The recent negotiations with the mullahs by the German authorities is a shameful act,” Nayeb-Agah said.
Adibi said the group would demonstrate if Ahmadinejad showed up.
“It is a right of Iranians and all others here to protest against the presence of him and that such a criminal should not be allowed here,” he said.