One of Iran’s top sports officials has resigned after his emailed New Year’s greetings to members of world football’s governing body was mistakenly forwarded to Israel’s football federation.
Mohammad Mansour Azimzadeh Ardebili sent the message through the sport’s governing body, FIFA. It was intended to go to all FIFA members except Israel, but was reportedly forwarded to the Israel Football Association, too.
Ardebili was a spokesman for the Iranian Football Federation (FFI).
The FFI said in a statement that the emails are sent every year worldwide to all member federations of the world football governing body FIFA, “except the football federation of the Zionist regime,” which has been deleted by the FFI from the mailing list.
Although it was sure he didn’t do it on purpose, “some people believed the email was sent intentionally”.
The statement also said that a FIFA employee - apparently an Israeli of Iranian descent - had forwarded the Iranian greeting message to the Israeli federation as well.
Since Iran’s Islamic rulers came to power in 1979, the country has not recognised Israel. Iranian athletes avoid playing Israeli competitors in international matches.
The greeting was received in Israel by the head of the Israel Football Association’s legal department, Amir Navon.
“He came into my office asking me if I thought it was a mistake,” IFA spokesman Gil Levanoni. “So I told him that I didn’t know, but that we should send in a reply.”
Levanoni and Navon said they replied to the greeting with a “happy new year to all the good people of Iran,” and said: "We also added a wink.
“We wrote that we hoped that they would have a happy soccer year.”