Iranian footballer Issa Alekasir was banned just hours before his Persepolis team’s Asian Champions League semi-final on Sunday morning (AEST).
The Asian Football Confederation announced on the day of the showdown between Persepolis and Al Nassr that the star goal-scorer has been exiled “from all football-related activity” after officials found his trademark goal celebration was a “discriminatory gesture”.
The 30-year-old has repeatedly throughout his career performed a goal celebration where he stretches the outsides of his eyes in a gesture interpreted by some to be a racist “squint-eyed” gesture.
However, he has repeatedly been cleared of any wrongdoing when performing the gesture in his domestic Iranian football competition because he has previously explained he performs the gesture as a tribute to his nephew.
Despite Alekasir routinely performing the celebration, the AFC handed down a six month ban after he performed the gesture during last week’s 2-0 win over Pakhtakor where he scored two goals.
In addition to the ban, he was also fined $10,000 for his slant-eyed gesture, considered a serious racial offence.
He had been his team’s best player in their run to the conference final, scoring four times in his side’s last three matches in Doha.
“The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary and Ethics Committee has banned Issa Alekasir, of Persepolis FC, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity for six months for violating Article 58.1 of the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code (2019 Edition),” the AFC said in a statement.
“The ban will take effect immediately,” the continental body added Article 58.1 states “anyone who offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, skin colour, gender, disability, language, age, physical appearance, religion, political opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation, or ethnic, national, or social origin has committed an offence.”
On Saturday, however, Al Nassr, who were hoping to reach the final for the first time, couldn’t make the most of Alekasir’s absence or the fact that Persepolis had lost Ehsan Pehlevan just before half-time after he received his second yellow card.
Persepolis was able to get the job done without him, winning 5-3 on penalties after the teams were still locked at 1-1 after 30 minutes of extra time.
The Saudis were first to score though, Abderrazzak Hamdallah foxing goalkeeper Lak with a ‘Panenka’ goal in the 36th minute following Bashar Resan’s foul on Khalid al-Ghannam.
But Persepolis needed only six minute to draw level, Abdi Mehdi producing an excellent header past Al Nassr goalkeeper Brad Jones off a cross from Resan.
— with AFP