In yesterday’s game against Uruguay South Africa’s goalie was given a red card – unfairly I might add! ☺ You’re left feeling like you want to defend your position but you can’t! After all in soccer the referee can make a decision like that without consulting anyone. That’s the game.
This past week has been a roller-coaster for me as an Iranian and South African. On the one hand I’ve been enjoying the opening of the World Cup and all the international energy, and on the other I’ve been worrying about people in Iran on the anniversary of the unrest surrounding last year’s elections. Many Iranians are in prison for crimes they haven’t committed and put on trial without the chance to defend their position fairly. It’s kind of like the red card in soccer! Except that you know for sure that the referee is partial.
As you may have seen in our little clip titled 12JuneJoburg, a bunch of us tapped into the positive energy here at the World Cup in order to raise awareness about the human rights situation in Iran. And I think we managed to strike quite a good balance: For us it wasn’t about pulling people down, demonizing Iran or breaking any rules. It was about celebrating the achievements of South Africa and encouraging Iranians all over the world to build a similar future for themselves – knowing that it’s possible.
No matter how the individual soccer games play out, the sense of unity and elation that South Africans feel as a country is overwhelming and healing. Don’t get me wrong. People haven’t shed their prejudices overnight. But they are transcending them in a powerful way. And so even when FIFA packs up and goes home in two months, there will be remnants of this healing process that will help the country move forward.
I think that Iran too will find that its strength lies in embracing the spectrum of what makes it such a rich and wonderful culture. What we need to do is work constructively with a mind to preserving our unity. And that is what 12June.org tries to achieve with its worldwide actions. The worst strategy for any soccer team is to start dishing out blame – internally or externally!
"If religion be the cause of disunity, then irreligion is surely to be preferred." Abdu’l-Baha
“If soccer be the cause of disunity, then get over yourself – it’s just a game!” Leyla Haidarian
12 June Johannesburg
People gather in Johannesburg, South Africa during the opening of the World Cup to campaign for human rights in Iran - particularly in support of Mohammad Oliyaifard and Behrouz Tehrani. www.12june.org