Ukraine’s top football club, Shakhtar Donetsk, has pressed FIFA to remove Iran from the World Cup because of the country’s alleged military support of the Russian invasion.
The club’s Chief Executive Officer, Sergei Palkin, has accused Iran of terrorism amid reports of the country supplying Russia with weapons to attack Ukraine.
Palkin has requested that Ukraine’s national team should play in Qatar’s upcoming World Cup instead of the Iranians.
“Shakhtar Football Club calls on FIFA and the entire international community to immediately ban Iran’s national team from playing at the World Cup for the country’s direct participation in terrorist attacks on Ukrainians,” said Palkin.
“This will be a fair decision that should draw the attention of the whole world to a regime that kills its best people and helps kill Ukrainians,” Palkin added.
Palkin claimed his national team has what it takes to make the World Cup, however said the war forced members of the national team to join the army.
“The vacant place should be taken by the national team of Ukraine, which proved that it is worthy of participation in the mundial. With unequal conditions with other national teams during the playoffs, they played with their heart. This decision is historically and sportingly justified.”
In February, FIFA banned Russia from international competition following its invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians have insisted on joining the tournament even after being eliminated by Wales 1-0.
There have been numerous calls to FIFA to withdraw Iran from the tournament, with political activists citing the country’s attack on women’s rights in light of recent protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini.
However, the decision to remove the Iranian national team is unlikely to happen for more than one reason.
FIFA typically suspends national teams when the country’s government is believed to have interfered in the independent running of its local federation.
However, Mehdi Taj, president of the Iranian Football Federation, has ensured that his government is kept from the team’s pitches.
In September, Iran’s players covered their national symbols by wearing jackets ahead of a friendly with Senegal to show solidarity with protests over Mahsa Amini’s death.
Iran forward Sardar Azmoun spoke out on the decision to protest the government’s actions on his social media page, saying it is worth any consequences that may arise.
“At worst, I’ll be dismissed from the national team. No problem. I’d sacrifice that for one hair on the heads of Iranian women. This story will not be deleted. They can do whatever they want. Shame on you for killing so easily; long live Iranian women,” Azmoun wrote.
Qatar 2022 will mark Iran’s sixth appearance at the World Cup.
Led by prominent coach Carlos Queiroz, the Iranian men will face off against England, Wales, and the US.