Two Iranian players have been banned for life from their national football team after playing against an Israeli team with their club in the Europa League
Iran captain Masoud Shojaei and midfielder Ehsan Haji Safi each played in the home leg of the third-round qualifier between their home team Panionios and Maccabi Tel Aviv last week
That violated Iran’s longstanding prohibition on athletes facing opponents from Israel, the country that Iranian government does not recognize and has no official ties.
“It is certain that Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi will never be invited to join the national football team because they violated the red line,” Mohammad Reza Davarzani, Iran’s deputy sports minister said Thursday on Iranian state television, as reported by The New York Times.
Iran becomes the first team in Asia to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a convincing winning streak under coach Carlos Queiros.
However, the missing of two key players in the squad may undermine the team’s chances of advancing in the finals.