Wolfsburg player draws criticism for withdrawal from squad

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I have more Iranian than German blood in my veins. That should be respected, and besides I'm doing this out of respect. My parents are Iranian.

—Ashkan Dejagah, VfL Wolfsburg player

Wolfsburg player Ashkan Dejagah drew criticism today for planning to not participate in Germany's 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship qualification match against Israel, which is scheduled to be played on October 12 in Tel Aviv.

I respect the decision of the coaches not to travel with the player because they told me that the player stated private and appropriate reasons. However, my position and that of the DFB is clear: We will not accept that a German national player refuses to play in an international match for reasons associated with his views on world politics.

—DFB President Theo Zwanziger

The issue stems from the fact that Dejagah is an Iranian-born citizen. Dejagah was quoted as saying, "I have more Iranian than German blood in my veins" and "That should be respected, and besides I'm doing this out of respect. My parents are Iranian." Iran-Israel relations are currently tense and Iranian citizens are forbidden from traveling to Israel since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, while at the same time, Iran began to refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist. Several German politicians and media members have called for Dejagah to be expelled from the German national team.

This is not the first time that the Iran-Israel conflict has entered German football. Current Hanover and Iran national team striker Vahid Hashemian, when he was with Bayern Munich, was pulled from the squad scheduled to face Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv in a Champions League game in 2004. Although Bayern cited a back injury as the reason for the Iranian's withdrawal, the potential visit proved controversial, with opposition to Hashemian's involvement coming from Iran's national sporting body.