After Iran opened the World Cup with a 1-0 win against Morocco yesterday, players called out Nike for cutting off the team’s cleat supply.
The Swoosh decided not to provide Iran with cleats in light of global sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.
“What Nike did to us was very wrong,” Karim Ansarifard said after the match. “I don’t want to comment too much on it. But I can tell you, as a footballer, we don’t compare diplomatic and political problems to sports.”
Ansarifard’s teammate Alireza Jahanbakhsh took it a step further, calling the Oregon-based sportwear brand “disrespectful.”
The company issued a statement: “U.S. sanctions mean that, as a U.S. company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian national team at this time. Sanctions applicable to Nike have been in place for many years and are enforceable by law.”
But Jahanbakhsh added, “Politics has nothing to do with sport and with football, such a beautiful game. You don’t have to involve this kind of thing with this game. That is something that unfortunately this brand did and, well, it’s their responsibility to do such a thing but the image they have [projected] at least for 80 million people in Iran is not a really nice image.”
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Iran’s coach, Carlos Queiroz, echoed his players’ sentiments, asking that his players be allowed to focus on the game, not politics.
“It is totally unfair to 23 boys who just want to play football. They showed today they deserve to be treated like all the other players in the world,” he said.
In May, Trump announced and signed an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and restore sanctions, spurring Nike’s decision not to outfit Iran.
Iran defeated Morocco on an own goal from Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz — enough to put the team atop Group B after Spain and Portugal’s match came to a draw later in the day.
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