Bayer Leverkusen’s Iranian forward Sardar Azmoun has risked serious sporting and personal consequences by speaking out over the death in his homeland of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
The Werkself player has become the first Iranian international to break his silence as the protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody intensify. She had been arrested for allegedly wearing “unsuitable attire” and later died in mysterious circumstances. Her death has sparked widespread protest in Iran, which authorities have said should be “dealt with decisively.”
On a social media post (which has since been deleted) Azmoun, wrote “Ashamed of you all, how carelessly people are murdered. Iranian women live long.”
The 27-year-old is the Iranian national team’s star player going into the World Cup in November having scored 40 goals in 62 appearances. Mixing politics and sport is never a good idea, but Azmoun felt he could hold his tongue no more in the face of what is happening in his homeland.
“We weren’t allowed to say anything because of national team rules, but I can’t take silence anymore,” Azmoun wrote. “The ultimate punishment would be for them to kick me off the team, which would be a small sacrifice compared to every single strand of hair on an Iranian woman.”
Curiously, all previous posts on Azmoun’s Instagram account have been deleted with the authorities in Tehran trying to stifle protest via the internet. It is unlikely that Azmoun’s comments will go unpunished, although he did appear in Iran’s recent 1-0 friendly victory over Uruguay. They have another friendly arranged against Senegal, but his participation remains unclear. His selection for the upcoming World Cup is also up for debate following his stance.
It is not just in the sporting realm that he could face consequences. Such actions could have consequences for his family and the ruling regime have shown in the past that they are not beyond punishing prominent athletes (wrestler Navid Afkari was sentenced to death in 2020 for allegedly killing a security guard).
Bayer Leverkusen have supported Azmoun in his actions with sporting director Simon Rolfes telling the Rheinishe Post, “I was in contact with Sardar. Of course, we support Sardar’s personal commitment because he is committed to maintaining and strengthening democratically legitimized basic values.”