BERLIN, Oct 8 (Reuters) – An Iranian-born player in Germany’s under-21 national soccer team has withdrawn from an upcoming match against Israel citing “personal reasons”, the German Football Association (DFB) said on Monday.
Ashkan Dejagah, 21, who plays for Bundesliga club VfB Wolfsburg, asked national team managers to allow him to withdraw from Germany’s European Championship qualifier against Israel, to be played in Tel Aviv on Friday, the DFB said.
“He came to us citing personal reasons that seemed very plausible,” DFB spokesman Jens Grittner said.
Dejagah could not be reached for comment, but tabloid daily Bild quoted him as saying his motive was political.
“It has political reasons. Everyone knows that I am German-Iranian,” he said of the decision to withdraw.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist and Iranian citizens are forbidden from travelling to Israel.
Dejagah was born in Tehran, but later moved with his parents to Germany. He holds a German passport.
Dejagah’s withdrawal has stirred controversy in Germany, which sets great store by good relations with Israel after some six million Jews died during the Holocaust.
Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper, called for Dejagah’s exclusion from the national team.
This call was backed by Friedbert Pflueger, a leading member of the Berlin branch of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).
In 2004, Iranian striker Vahid Hashemian was pulled from Bayern Munich’s roster for a Champions League game against Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Although Bayern cited a back injury as the reason for Hashemian’s withdrawal, the potential visit proved controversial and Iran’s national sporting body opposed it.
I for one support his decision. Why should he play against a country that is pushing Washington to nuke us?!??!?!