One of the more noteworthy twists in the Iranian political crisis was the moment when several players on Iran’s national soccer team showed up for a World Cup qualifying match wearing green armbands in solidarity with the opposition. Since state television couldn’t very well refuse to cover the game, it was a rare opportunity for dissidents to get national TV coverage. And now the players in question are done for:
According to the pro-government newspaper Iran, four players – Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka’abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32 – have been “retired” from the sport after their gesture in last Wednesday’s match against South Korea in Seoul. [...] Karimi is one of Iranian football’s best-known stars, having played for the German club Bayern Munich. Ka’abi played for Leicester City for several months during the 2007/8 season. Hashemian and Mahdavikia play for the German teams Bochum and Eintracht Frankfurt. [...] Iran’s hardline media have since linked the protest to the arrest on Saturday of Mohsen Safayi Farahani, who headed the country’s football governing body under the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami. He is one of several dozen opposition politicians, intellectuals and journalists to have been detained.
One of the things The Lives of Others does very well is illustrate how a dictatorial regime that prefers to stay in power through “soft” methods can use the threat of destroying people’s careers. Instead of being put on trial and executed, becoming a martyr for the cause, you can just be rendered unemployable in the field of your choice in a decision nobody has to publicly defend but everyone understands. You become, then, not an imprisoned hero, but perhaps just an apparently pathetic person—in the movie it’s a theater director who can’t direct—a cautionary tale rather than an inspirational example.