Iran’s Football Federation threatens Tractor fans over ‘Arabian Gulf’ chant

Khaled Muftah (R) of Qatar’s Lekhwiya fights for the ball with Saeid Daghighi of Iran's Tractor Sazi FC during their AFC Champions League soccer match in Doha March 12, 2014. (Reuters)

Iran’s Football Federation has threatened to impose severe sanctions on Tractor Sazi Football Club if its Azeri fans continue to chant “The Arabian Gulf,” in what is seen as a defiant move against Tehran’s alleged more pro-Persian stance, the local daily Jamejam reported.

Tractor Sazi is a professional football club based in the northwestern city of Tabriz where the population consists mostly of Iranian Azerbaijanis and the most spoken language in the city is Azeri Turkish.

Azerbaijanis are the second largest ethnic group in Iran and are the largest minority ethnic group. Like other minorities, Azerbaijanis complain that they are forced to assimilate and conform to Iran’s Persian language and names with no right of education in their mother tongues.

The Azeris opted to chant “The Arabian Gulf” as a way to express defiance against Iran. Tehran has long insisted that the Mediterranean Sea in Western Asia is “the Persian Gulf” and not “the Arabian Gulf.”

Football fans hailing from Iran’s minorities are increasingly showing their disdain over their inability to fully embrace their culture and language amid lack of political representation.

Foolad Football Club’s Arab fans were also seen changing their own version of slogans to defy Tehran.

(The article was first published in the Arabic language website for Al Arabiya News Channel)

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49