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Friday, June 15, 2018

Nike withdraws cleats to Iran team - FIFA 2018


On May 21, 1997 at Chennai's MA Chidambaram Stadium,  Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar scored 194*  breaking the 13-year-old landmark of 189 set by Vivian Richards in ODI.  It was a day-night match – in the afternoon,  Saeed Anwar had walked on the Wallajah Road and purchased a bat from one of the sports shops over there !

Cleats or studs are protrusions on the sole of a shoe, or on an external attachment to a shoe, that provide additional traction on a soft or slippery surface. They can be conical or blade-like in shape, and made of plastic, rubber or metal. In American English the term cleats is used  to refer to shoes featuring such protrusions.

Heard of sanctions !!  -  UN and many other countries especially USA impose trade embargo and  economic sanctions against different countries and activities, the most notable of them aimed against countries which the U.S. government has declared "State Sponsors of Terrorism".  Sanctions imposed by the United States government include:  no arms-related exports; controls over dual-use technology exports; restrictions on economic assistance; financial restrictions; duty-free goods exemption suspended for imports from those countries – and more !

FIFA World Cup is on ~  2018 FIFA World Cup is the 21st  FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men's national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It is currently ongoing in Russia starting from 14 June and will end with the final match on 15 July 2018.  This is the first World Cup held to be held in Eastern Europe, and the eleventh time that it has been held in Europe.  The final tournament will involve 32 national teams, which include 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team. Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup.

When Yuri Gazinsky headed in the first goal of the 2018 World Cup, giving host Russia early joy in what developed into a 5-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia, Russian President Vladimir Putin leaned across to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with his hand outstretched.  Football, bringing the world together. Or so Putin and FIFA would have us believe. The football mismatch of the opening game Thursday, with a Saudi team so bad it made Russia look better than it is, surely mattered less to Putin than the broader message: For the next month to the final on July 15, Russia is putting its best foot forward and showing a fair-play, gentler side of itself to the world.  “Football,” Putin told the 78,000-strong crowd in his tournament-opening remarks in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, “has brought us together tonight in a single team.”

But there are some issues ~ there is already one ! - Nike has withdrawn its supply of football boots to Iran football for the World Cup in Russia due to the new United States sanctions that have been imposed, the American sportswear giant has announced. Last month,  US President Donald Trump reimposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal between the Middle East nation and the US’ European allies after labelling the agreement “decaying and rotten” and “an embarrassment”. Due to Trump’s announcement, a number of leading companies have since suspended activities in Iran, including Nike and their kit agreement with the national team just days before they start their campaign at Russia 2018.

 “US sanctions mean that, as a US company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian national team at this time,” a statement read. “Sanctions applicable to Nike have been in place for many years and are enforceable by law.”  Had Nike gone through with supplying the Iranian team with football boots, they could have faced substantial fines under the US Department of the Treasury’s regulations.

Current Iran had coach Carlos Queiroz, who worked with Sir Alex Ferguson as his assistant at Manchester United and also led the Portugal national team to the 2010 World Cup, has issued a plead for help to Fifa after being left in serious trouble on the eve of the tournament. “Players get used to their sports equipment, and it’s not right to change them a week before such important matches,” Queiroz said in Russia. The decision by Nike has also prompted a fan backlash after a number of Iranian supporters posted videos on social media of them throwing their own boots in bins, labelling the move “an insult to [Iranian] people and all football lovers” and another claiming it made the players “symbols of humiliation”.

The move is the latest problem in what has been a turbulent build-up to the 2018 World Cup, with Iran having their friendlies against Greece and Kosovo cancelled. Someone else confused Nike refusal to supply cleats comparing it to Iran refusing to play against Israel, which they feel is legitimate.  Some officials are making it appear as if players on the Iranian team have been left to find shoes by other means - reaching out to non-Iran players that play club ball to loan them a few pairs, or just buying their own.  Iran will begin its World Cup run on Friday with a match against Morocco, followed by matches against Spain and Portugal to finish out the group stage of the tournament.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
15th June 2018.

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