Israeli soccer player Maor Buzaglo, who is in London for treatment of a knee injury, posted an unusual photo on his Facebook page Sunday: a shot of him in the smiling company of a fellow midfielder – from Iran, Ashkan Dejagah.
The picture, in which the athletes are both sitting on training tables, is particularly noteworthy considering that in 2007 Dejagah declined to come to Israel for a Germany Under-21 match; the Tehran native moved to Germany with his family when he was 1.
Back then, Dejagah cited fears that he would be imprisoned if he ever visited his birth country, but on Sunday no such concerns were apparent.
“In soccer there are different rules and there is one language without prejudice and without wars,” Buzaglo, 30, wrote in Hebrew. “The captain of the Iranian national team and I show it can be different,” added the attacking midfielder who plays both for Maccabi Haifa and Israel’s national team.
Buzaglo has bounced around the Israeli league and played for the Belgian side Standard Liège earlier in the decade.
Dejagah, a 31-year-old attacking midfielder, was born in Tehran, grew up in Berlin and played on the Hertha Berlin youth team. Professionally he has played for Wolfsburg in Germany, Fulham in England, Al-Arabi in Qatar – and now he’s back in England with Nottingham Forest.
In 2012, Dejagah agreed to do what he had turned down years before – representing the Iranian national team. He played for Iran in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and has recently served as captain for a number of games.
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In 2007, he defended his decision not to join his team for the match in Israel, telling Stern magazine that "according to the law in Tehran, they would put me in jail with a passport stamp from Israel." He added, "Besides that, no one knows what they do with Iranians in Israel."