Friendly match

Israeli soccer star posts photo with Iranian team captain

‘In soccer the rules are different and there is one language without prejudice and wars,’ Israel’s Maor Buzaglo says of photo with Ashkan Dejagah

The captain of Iran’s national soccer team posed for a photo with an Israeli soccer star, an offense unlikely to go unpunished in a country that bans its athletes from competing against Israelis.

Israel’s Maor Buzaglo posted the picture with Ashkan Dejagah on his Twitter account Sunday.

“In soccer the rules are different and there is one language without prejudice and wars. The captain of the Iranian team and I prove another way is possible,” wrote Buzaglo.

The picture was snapped in London, where Dejagah plays for the city’s Fulham soccer club and where Buzaglo was receiving medical treatment for his injured knee.

Dejagah — who was born in Iran and moved with his family to Germany when he was a year old — refused to travel to Israel in 2007 when playing for Germany’s under-21 team.

While the soccer player stressed at the time that he had nothing against the Jewish state, instead expressing concerns over the safety of his relatives in Iran, his decision sparked anger among German Jews and saw calls for his suspension from the team.

Theo Zwanziger, then head of the German Football Association, allowed Dejagah to continue to play for the team, saying he told him “that his request not to be nominated for the game in Israel … had no racist or anti-Semitic background.”

Iran maintains a strict ban on its athletes competing against Israelis and last year banned two soccer players from its national team for playing for Greek club team Panionios in a match against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Iran later appeared to walk back the ban after a huge outcry from soccer fans on social media and the launch of an investigation by FIFA, which has strict rules against political interference in national teams.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports terror groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas which seek the country’s destruction.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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