Ali Daei, a former Iranian national team captain and the country’s record international goalscorer, will not be able to attend an annual FIFA ceremony later this month due to a travel ban imposed on him by the Islamic Republic’s security institutions, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.
The football’s world body invited Daei to attend The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony in Paris on February 27 which will honor the most outstanding members of the sport.
The 53-year-old Daei, known as the "monarch" (Shahriyar in Persian) of Iranian football, is a former German Bundesliga striker whose 109 goals at the international level were long unsurpassed until Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo overtook him in 2021.
He has come under the radar of the authorities after he voiced support for the anti-government demonstrations that have rocked Iran over the past five months and for criticizing the brutal state crackdown on the protests.
Daei had his passport confiscated in October, and his wife and daughter were prevented from leaving Iran in December.
The authorities closed Daei’s jewelry store and restaurant in Tehran after he joined a three-day nationwide strike in December, and hard-liners in the Islamic Republic have called for severe judicial actions against the former footballer.
A growing number of Iranian celebrities have voiced support for the ongoing protests, with Islamic Republic officials accusing them of "fanning the flames of the riots." Some of them have been thrown behind bars.
Footballer Ali Karimi was forced to flee his country after he expressed support for the protesters on social media, and all his properties and assets in Iran were confiscated by the order of the judiciary. Other well-known Iranian footballers have been summoned and detained for comments they had published on social media.
FIFA has been criticized for failing to react to the crackdown on the sport.