Captain Masoud Shojaei excluded from Iran squad for final World Cup qualifiers

Captain Masoud Shojaei has been excluded from the Iran national team for the final World Cup qualifiers against South Korea and Syria after playing against an Israeli club.

Shojaei and his Iran team mate Ehsan Hajsafi played for Greek side Panionios against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv in a Europa League qualifier earlier this month.

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. Therefore, the duos have been supposed to be banned from the national team, as claimed by media.

Indeed, Sweden-born midfielder Saman Ghoddos has been called up for the first time by Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and might debut for the team Maelli this week.

In a statement on Facebook, Queiroz did not confirm the permanent suspension for both Shojaei and Hajsafi, but insisted that 33-year-old Shojaei and other excluded veterans remained part of his plans in the lead-up to next year’s finals.

“We have a 37 Elite Player Group that is our preparation basis for the World Cup and this call-up list, bringing some younger players, reflects our strategy of working on all this Elite Group,” the Portuguese wrote.