Ashkan Dejagah, a German-Iranian soccer player refused to go with his team on its scheduled visit to Tel Aviv for a game. His reasons for refusing are varied ranging from telling his coach they were “of a personal nature and have to do with my close family” to telling the newspaper BZ they were “political” and that “I have more Iranian than German blood in my veins.” He also claimed it would be difficult seeing his family which is in Iran if his passport had a visa stamp from Israel. Theo Zwansiger, President of the German Football Federation, stated ‘we will not tolerate a German national player cancelling his participation in an international match because of his world view. A player who wears our team stripe must identify with this country and it values. Otherwise, one has to do without him.” The German Jewish council expressed its anger at the actions of Dejagah.
If Mr. Dejagah believes having an Israel stamp on his passport will impede his ability to visit Iran and see his family, he certainly has a right to express these concerns to his coach. However, if he is making an anti-Israel statement that is a different matter. The contradictory statements made by Dejagah certainly don’t help in this situation. Sports is a wonderful way for people with differing views to bond with one another.