Soccer fans from Israel and around the world have called on World Cup organizers to ban an Iranian player from the remainder of the tournament, a year after he retweeted a post from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei anticipating the destruction of Israel.
Fans want the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) to ban 25-year-old striker Mehdi Taremi from the 2018 World Cup, which is currently underway in Russia.
After his tweet resurfaced over the weekend, thousands of users began to call on FIFA to take action against the Iranian striker under the hashtag #BanTaremi.
Taremi, who is one of Iran’s most popular soccer players, has since deleted the tweet.
Khamenei’s original tweet in Hebrew, English and Persian said that the state of Israel would not last another 25 years.
Most of the fans protesting Taremi’s endorsement of Khamenei’s remarks noted that hate speech is expressly forbidden in FIFA’s own bylaws.
According to the Ynet news site, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon weighed in on the tweet, saying that “for the sake of his team, it’s best if Taremi focused on soccer and not on echoing ugly and illegitimate calls against the State of Israel.”
On Friday, the Iranian team won its first group stage World Cup game in 20 years, beating Morocco 1-0. Within minutes of their shock victory, Iranians burst out into the streets of Tehran in rare and wild celebration.
Traffic on the city’s main north-south artery, Vali Asr Street, reduced to a crawl as hundreds of cars blasted their horns and jubilant fans hung out of windows waving the Iranian flag and screaming.
The team faces a tall order in recreating Friday’s jubilation as it goes on to face two of the world’s best teams in Spain and Portugal next week.
Agencies contributed to this report.