Maccabi Haifa midfielder Maor Buzaglo (right).
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
In a surprising move, an Israeli soccer player posted a photo on social media Sunday of himself and a fellow Iranian athlete.
Maor Buzaglo, a player with Maccabi Haifa who also plays for Israel’s national team, was in London over the weekend receiving treatment for a knee injury. While there, he ran into Ashkan Dejagah, an Iranian who plays for Nottingham Forest in the UK and is also captain of the Iranian national team.
Buzaglo posted a photo of the pair on Instagram and Twitter, alongside Israeli and Iranian flags and the peace sign.
“In soccer there are different rules and one language, without prejudice and without wars,” Buzaglo wrote in Hebrew. “The captain of the Iranian team and I are proving that things can be different.”
Buzaglo, 30, tagged Dejagah in his photo, though the Iranian player did not post anything similar on his own feed, where he has more than 680,000 followers. But he did comment on Buzaglo’s post, writing: “wish you a quick recovery too my friend.”
Dejagah, 31, also suffered a recent injury, undergoing surgery last month.
Though sports are ostensibly apolitical, Iranian players have a long history of snubbing – or being forced to snub – Israeli adversaries.
Just last month an Iranian judoka pulled out of a match against an Israeli in the Dusseldorf Grand Slam in Germany, and the Israeli went on to win bronze. In November, an Iranian wrestler faked an injury at the World Senior Wrestling Championship in Poland at the order of his coach so he would not have to face an Israeli in the next match.
Many athletes fear repercussions back home if they disobey orders and play against Israelis.
In 2007, while playing for the German under-21 national soccer team, Dejagah refused to travel to Israel to play a match there. In an official statement, the soccer player said at the time that the reasons for his decision were “of a very personal nature and have to do with my close family.”
He told BZ newspaper at the time that “I have nothing against Israel. But I’m worried about having problems later when traveling to Iran.”
When asked about the issue in 2014, Dejagah told The Guardian that it was a long time ago, and “it helped me grow up. But now I only look to the future.”