Women

Futsal Player's 'Stop War' Message Sharply Rebuked by Club Bosses

March 11, 2022
IranWire
3 min read
Futsal player Mahsa Kamali brought her team a 2-0 win at the Women's Futsal Pro League this week
Futsal player Mahsa Kamali brought her team a 2-0 win at the Women's Futsal Pro League this week
After the match, Kamali lifted up her shirt to reveal an anti-war message emblazoned on a T-shirt underneath
After the match, Kamali lifted up her shirt to reveal an anti-war message emblazoned on a T-shirt underneath
Mes Rafsanjan FC issued a sternly-worded statement distancing itself from the gesture, and Kamali is now expected to be fined after a disciplinary hearing
Mes Rafsanjan FC issued a sternly-worded statement distancing itself from the gesture, and Kamali is now expected to be fined after a disciplinary hearing

This week a member of the Iranian national women’s futsal team caused a stir by taking a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of a Pro League match. After scoring the two winning goals for her team, Mes Rafsanjan, against Abadan Refinery in the quarter-finals, Mahsa Kamali lifted up her shirt to display a T-shirt printed with the words: “Stop War”.

The 2-0 win for Mes Rafsanjan was eclipsed by this overt political gesture. Kamali’s picture quickly circulated online, with many social media users praising her courage in speaking out against the war.

Her club, however, was less than impressed. Within 48 hours, Mes Rafsanjan FC had posted a statement on its official website, headlined: “The mission and policies of Mes Rafsanjan cannot be entangled in politics.”

“The gesture by a member of Mes Rafsanjan FC’s women’s team was a purely personal and emotional one,” the statement read, “and has no connection to the general policies of Mes Rafsanjan FC.” Managers said they had summoned Kamali to appear before a disciplinary committee.

IranWire has since learned that several members of that committee wanted to ban Kamali from playing for two to four matches. For the moment, this has been suspended thanks to the intervention of three other members of the team. Instead, Kamali is expected to have to pay an as-yet undisclosed fine.

Both Parties Were Already ‘Political’

The futsal player Mahsa Kamali was born on August 16, 1994 in the northwestern city of Zanjan. She was a member of the Iranian national team when it won the AFC Women's Futsal Asian Cup in 2018. Known as an energetic player, Kamali is often hit with yellow and red cards for fouling and sometimes aggressive moves. Her technique, however, is widely admired. Teammates say she always runs to her last breath.

Outside of futsal, even before the latest incident, Kamali was known for her public pursuit of civil rights and equal rights for women in Iran. Her social media posts about political events in both Iran and the wider world often attract large-scale attention.

Mes Rafsanjan FC, meanwhile, is not as thoroughly distanced from politics as it claimed on its website this week. In November 2021, the club issued a joint statement with none other than the Basij Organization of Rafsanjan, condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza. And back in 2014, Mes Rafsanjan co-signed a statement addressed to then-US President Barack Obama accusing him of “attacking Muslims in the Middle East” and calling him “the boss of child murderers”.

The same behavior has long been displayed across Iranian football. Last year at the same time as Mes Rafsanjan, Ali Alireza Jahanbakhsh, captain of Iran’s national football team, also joined the chorus condemning Israel. Around the same time, Rouzbeh Cheshmi, a defender for Esteghlal FC and a member of the national team, also backed the Palestinian cause on Instagram, and Mehdi Torabi, a winger for Persepolis FC, stood in front of TV cameras with a message written on his T-shirt: “Supporting the Supreme Leader, the only way to save the country.” None of these athletes were censured for their political stances.

 

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Futsal Player's 'Stop War' Message Sharply Rebuked by Club Bosses