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Refusal to play Israel sparks outrage

Refusal to play Israel sparks outrage

Author:
Publication: The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: October 9, 2007
URL: http://www.smh.com.au/news/World/Refusal-to-play-Israel-sparks-utrage/2007/10/09/1191695907667.html

A German-Iranian soccer player's refusal to play in Israel has created a public outcry, with the president of the Central Council of Jews calling for his exclusion from the German national team.

Under-21 player Ashkan Dejagah, who was born in Iran but moved to Germany as a child, pulled out of Friday's game in Tel Aviv - a qualification match for the European Under-21 Championship - citing political reasons in several interviews.

"Everybody knows I am a German-Iranian," the midfielder told the top-selling Bild, adding that his decision to withdraw from the game with Israel had "political reasons".

Berlin's daily tabloid B-Z quoted him as saying: "I have more Iranian than German blood in my veins. I am doing it out of respect. After all, my parents are Iranian."

Dejagah's decision not to participate in the match with Israel created even more outrage after it became public that the German soccer federation had accepted his decision.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the association said it accepted the player's "personal reasons" not to participate in the game.

"I have accepted the coach's decision, because he explained to me that the player has personal reasons for his decision," association President Theo Zwanziger said in the statement.

Dejagah, 21, has dual citizenship and plays for Germany's Bundesliga first league VfL Wolfsburg.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, called Dejagah's behaviour "deeply unsportsmanlike".

Germany is "aware of its historical responsibility ... and it would be a big affront if this anti-Israeli behaviour would be tolerated," Knobloch said in a statement. "I therefore expect the (soccer federation) to exclude the player from the German national team."

The vice-president of the Central Council, Dieter Graumann, told Spiegel Online that "it is impossible that a national player initiates a private Jew boycott".

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has publicly questioned the Nazi Holocaust and aroused worldwide condemnation when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".


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