US sportswear firm Nike says it cannot supply boots and other equipment to Iran's national football team players due to sanctions on the Islamic country. Iran faces Morocco in its first match at the FIFA World Cup.
Carlos Queiroz, the head coach of Iran's national team, has called on Nike to apologize after the US sportswear company said it could not supply football cleats to his players due to US sanctions on the Iranian regime.
"US sanctions mean that, as a US company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian National team at this time," Nike had said in a statement.
The Iranian side faces Morocco in their Group B opener on Friday, June 15. European Cup winner Portugal and the 2010 world champions Spain are also in the same group.
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It is Iran's fifth World Cup appearance and the country is hoping to do better than the 2014 World Cup. Iranian footballers were commended for their performance in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where it gave tough time to the Argentine team in a group match.
"They [Nike] should come out and apologize because this arrogant conduct against 23 boys is absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary," Queiroz, a Portugese, told Sky Sports.
Queiroz has also been the manager of the Portugal national team and Spanish club Real Madrid. He was also Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant manager at English club Manchester United.
The Nike controversy, just days before the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, has put Iran in a tough spot. The Iranian side is worried how it would get the necessary equipment for the tournament.
In May, US President Donald Trump announced that his administration would re-impose sanctions on the Islamic country. Trump also withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal, which was approved by his predecessor Barack Obama and a host of world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Iranian Football Association has asked the football governing body FIFA to intervene.
"Players are getting used to their equipment and it's not right to change so close to our important matches," Queiroz protested.
Nike's justification for canceling its contract with the Iranian team has been criticized because the re-imposition of US sanctions will not come into effect until August.
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Iran's sportswear woes
Iranian players now have to purchase their own football gear in Russia at a very short notice. Some Iranian footballers play for European clubs and have sought their help.
However, it is only a short-term solution; Iran's football association has to find ways to get another company to replace Nike.
The Iranian national team has faced an equipment problem for years. After the Iranian football association severed ties with the German company Uhlsport, a significant improvement with regards to the supply of sports equipment could have been a contract with the German sportswear giant Adidas. It, however, has not happened so far.
The controversy over the World Cup jersey was another problem the Iranian team had to deal with until last month. FIFA had objected to the Persian cheetah national symbol on the players' jerseys as it did not meet the football governing body's specifications.
It was only on May 19 when the Iranian team's World Cup 2018 jersey was presented during a friendly match against Uzbekistan.
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1930: Once upon a time…
The first football World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930. Most teams came from North, Central and South America; only four European teams showed up, making the long journey by steamship. The host country won against its archrival, Argentina, in the final by 4-2. Aczel's illustration shows the teams' captains, Jose Nasazzi (Uruguay, at left) and Manuel Ferreira, lead their teams onto the field.
1954: Miracle of Bern
The first World Cup after World War II took place in Switzerland. In the preliminary, Germany lost against top team Hungary and its star, Ferenc Puskas, 3-8. But the final was a different story as Germany beat Hungary 3-2, becoming world champions for the very first time. Pictured above are Fritz Walter (left) and trainer Sepp Herberger on the shoulders of enthusiastic fans.
1966: One and only
England, largely seen as the birthplace of football, has only been World Cup champion once — in 1966, when the tournament took place on British soil. In the final, England won against Germany 4-2. Controversy still surrounds the famous "Wembley goal" that England scored in the 101st minute in extra time. Pictured above is Bobby Moore holding up the cherished cup.
1970: Three cheers for Pele
This year, Brazil was world champion for the third time. Pele, one of the 20th century's iconic football stars, led his team to victory over Italy 4-1, after the Brazilians had scored 19 sensational goals in only six games. West Germany came in third after beating Uruguay 1-0. 1970 was also the first year that the tournament could be watched on TV in color.
1974: Beckenbauer vs. Cruyff
The first World Cup to take place in Germany saw some premieres. Germany's top star Franz Beckenbauer played against the equally venerated Johan Cruyff of the Netherlands, and West Germany played against East Germany. It was also the first tournament to feature the new cup. In the final, Germany won against the Netherlands 2-1, with "bomber of the nation" Gerd Müller scoring the decisive goal.
1986: Hand of God
This year's outing in Mexico is still remembered for the show put on by Argentine superstar Diego Maradona. Thanks to his ingenuity and finesse, Argentina was champion for the second time. Maradona scored breathtaking, but also controversial, goals, including one where he shot the ball into the goal by hand, and the "goal of the century," which saw him dribble past five English players.
1990: Spit attack
Germany celebrated its third World Cup win in Italy following a 1-0 victory against Argentina. What may be best remembered, however, is when Dutch player Frank Rijkaard (right) spit on Germany's Rudi Völler as they faced off in the in the round of 16. Both players had to leave the field after a scuffle.
2006: Zidane goes ballistic
This year's World Cup was celebrated throughout host country Germany as its "Sommermärchen," or "summer fairy tale." In the final, Italy won against France in a penalty shootout. The game's worst moment occurred when French captain Zinedine Zidane knocked down Italian player Marco Materazzi with a head-butt. The ensuing dismissal ended his extraordinary career.
2010: Tiki-taka for the win
In South Africa, Spain dominated its rivals with its tiki-taka style, constantly passing the ball. In the final, Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0, celebrating the biggest success in its soccer history. The winning goal was scored by Andres Iniesta (front row, No. 6) during overtime. Germany came in third, after defeating Uruguay 3-2.
2014: King of dribbling
The hero of the last tournament, which took place in Brazil, was Argentina's star Lionel Messi. Thanks to him, Argentina reached the final to face off against Germany — which had decisively defeated the host nation 7-1 in the semifinals.
2014: Four-star team
Around 75,000 fans filled the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro for the final between Germany and Argentina. Germany won 1-0 in overtime — and for the very first time, a European team succeeded in taking home the trophy on South American soil.
2018: Controversial cup
This year's host country is Russia, a controversial choice in the wake of the FIFA corruption scandal and accusations of doping. Russia will face off against Saudi Arabia on opening day in Moscow on June 14. The final will take place just over a month later, on July 15, in the same place — Luzhniki Stadium.
Comic trip through history
World Cup 1930-2018, an illustrated history, is published by Edel Books. The book chronicles the unforgettable moments of the 88-year history of the tournament, with witty comics and humorous texts. The cover features many stars of the 2018 edition, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Manuel Neuer, Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Man with the pen
German Aczel, the Argentine artist behind the book, began his career in his hometown Buenos Aires, where he worked for the sports magazine El Grafico. He moved to Germany at age 26, and now lives in Munich. Currently, he works for British soccer magazine FourFourTwo.