Iranian authorities release two former national team football players after protest arrests

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Iranian officials have released two former members of the national football team after they were arrested in connection with protests in the country earlier this month.

Retired goalkeeper Parviz Boroumand was arrested for allegedly participating in protests in Tehran and was accused of damaging property.

Voria Ghafouri was arrested for allegedly “insulting the national soccer team and propagandising against the government,” according to reports.

Both men were released just hours before Iran was beaten 1-0 by the US at the World Cup to go crashing out of the tournament in Qatar. Iranian authorities gave no explanation for the release, according to The Associated Press.

Ghafouri, who still plays for a club in the country, has been an outspoken critic of the regime throughout his career, objecting to a ban on women attending men’s matches in Iran.

He also expressed sympathy for the family of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, whose death in September at the hands of the country’s morality police sparked the most recent wave of protests.

Amini died after being arrested for what police viewed as inappropriate dress, and the protests that have followed have rocked Iran.

At least 452 protesters have been killed and more than 18,000 detained since the start of the unrest, according to the group, Human Rights Activists in Iran.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he was “delighted” that Ghafouri had been released.

“In taking this decision, I appreciate the support of the Iranian authorities, and in particular that of Hamid Sajjadi, the Iranian Minister of Sport and Youths, who I met around Iran’s match versus Wales,” Mr Infantino said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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