Skip to main content

Fate of Iran soccer player unclear as he faces risk of execution  

Iranian prosecutors are seeking to send Amir Reza Nasr Azadani to the gallows, as the Islamic Republic defiantly presses ahead with death sentences for protesters.  
Nasr-Azadani was arrested in the city of Isfahan two days after allegedly taking part in an "armed riot" in which three security agents were killed on September 16, Isfahan's judiciary chief Abdullah Jafari said, quoted on December 11 by Iran's ISNA news agency.  (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

TEHRAN — Fears intensified on Tuesday over the fate of 26-year-old Iranian soccer player Amir Reza Nasr Azadani, who was arrested last month and is standing trial in Iran over his participation in anti-government protests.  

Prosecutors in the central city of Isfahan indicted the athlete on Sunday with a charge punishable by execution. According to Mizan News, the official outlet of the Iranian judiciary, Nasr Azadani is accused of armed rebellion against the Islamic Republic. No date has been assigned for his next court appearance.

Nasr Azadani plays for FC Iranjavan, a club based in Bushehr in southwest Iran that currently competes in the Azadegan League.

The indictment alleges that he is a member of an unnamed "armed group" targeting the ruling establishment. It links the soccer player to the deaths of two members of pro-government paramilitary Basij forces and a police officer during an anti-government protest Nov. 16. The Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced last month that it had arrested a "terrorist team" over the Isfahan violence. 

Isfahan's chief judge, Asadollah Jafary, pledged that the court will act "without any attention to media campaigns," an apparent reference to pushes at home and abroad for Azadani's acquittal.  

Ali Karimi, an Iranian former soccer star, now exiled dissident, has been leading the support campaign, describing Nasr Azadani as "one of the victims of the child-killing regime." Similarly, many members of the Iranian soccer community, including former Hamburg SV right-winger Mehdi Mahdavikia, have released their own statements of solidarity. 

FIFPRO, the global union for professional football players, said Monday that it was "shocked and sickened" by Nasr Azadani's possible execution for "campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom." The union urged "the immediate removal of his punishment."  

Iran's Ministry of Sports has toed the line of conservative President Ebrahim Raisi. It has shown no gesture of public support, only noting that Azadani has been indicted and was awaiting a verdict. 

Since Thursday, Iran has executed two protesters, Mohsen Shekari and Majid-Reza Rahnavard, both 23, triggering shock and condemnation. Iranian judges have officially ordered capital punishment for at least 11 other protesters.  

The crackdown since mid-September, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency, has left 490 protesters dead, nearly 70 of them minors.  

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in