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‘Beautiful Game’: Israelis, Iranians Team Up On The Pitch

The captain of Israel’s national soccer team has signed a deal with famed Greek club Olympiacos and will line up alongside two members of the Iranian national squad, its captain Ehsan Hajsafi and forward Karim Ansarifard. Bibras Natkho, a member of Israel’s Circassian minority, is the latest Israeli footballer to share a field with Iranians. Last week, Alireza Jahanbakhsh appeared for English Premier League team Brighton & Hove Albion FC alongside Tomer Hemed, a Jewish Israeli, and Beram Kayal, an Arab Israeli. In 2015, when playing for Alkmaar, Jahanbakhsh refused to face-off against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv. A spokesman for the footballer recently told The New Arab website, “Alireza was young when Alkmaar played the Israeli team and he was afraid about his future. It’s not an issue when Iranian players play with Israeli teammates—only if they play against them.” While Iran does not recognize the Jewish state and discourages its athletes from competing against Israelis, the regime cannot openly ban players for doing so because this would violate international regulations.

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