The Iranian referee for the World Cup third place playoff between England and Belgium has threatened to leave Iran forever.
Alireza Faghani made his comments following a scandal that emerged after he shook hands with a female colleague on Wednesday, July 11 during the England-Croatia game in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Soon after, photographs of the handshake were posted and shared on social media. The Islamic Republic bans unrelated members of opposite sex from touching each other.
Faghani initially took a conciliatory tone when responding to the controversy. “Such behavior in cyberspace is only natural,” he said. “This lady is a colleague of mine and is also married to one of my closest referee friends. I am sorry for those who are looking for a scandal in such a situation.”
But the controversy intensified. Just a day before he was to be a FIFA referee in the July 14 playoff, Iranian Football Federation security officials demanded an explanation.
Faghani’s comments became more adamant and angry. “I don’t understand this,” he said. “I have known her since 2013 and I am close to both her and her spouse. When we met she congratulated me for my judgments. If they want to create problems because of this, I tell you right now: I will leave...I will take my wife and my family and go.”
Faghani, who has worked with FIFA since 2008, has a long and distinguished record as an international referee — from the 2014 Asian Champions League (AFC) Final and the 2015 Asian Cup Final to the 2015 World Cup Final, the final match in the 2016 Summer Olympics, the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and, on July 14, the third-place playoff in the 2018 World Cup.
Faghani's distinguished career helps bring prestige to Iranian football. But now he has threatened to abandon his home country, all because he shook hands with a female colleague in front of the cameras.