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Iranian Soccer Legend Nasser Hejazi Laid To Rest

Nasser Hejazi

Nasser Hejazi

Iranian soccer legend Nasser Hejazi was laid to rest today at Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery following a funeral ceremony at the Azadi stadium that was attended by thousands of his supporters.

His death on May 23 following a two-year battle with lung cancer has saddened many Iranians from all walks of life. Many, including politicians, intellectuals, and sports figures have paid tribute to him. A show devoted to his life aired on Iran's state television was said to have received more than 5 million text messages from his fans.

Hejazi, who was 62 at the time of his death, is considered by many as one of the best goalkeepers in Iranian soccer. He was also seen by some as a symbol of defiance against the Iranian regime.

Hejazi, for example, criticized the subsidy cuts implemented by the government of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and accused the government of ignoring the problems of the people. His comments were criticized by pro-government websites including Rajanews, which warned him not to meddle in state affairs.

Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency has reported that 15,000 people went to the cemetery to pay their respects to the man who is known among many Iranians as "The Legend." Other sources say 20,000 people attended his burial.

In this video, men and women are chanting "Goodbye Nasser Hejazi " and "Today is the day of mourning" while entering the Azadi stadium to attend the funeral. Women, who are banned from sports stadiums in Iran, were allowed in to pay their respect to Hejazi.

Some opposition sources have quoted witnesses as saying that several people were detained at today's funeral.

The Gooya web portal has posted several pictures that it says shows people being detained and taken away from the stadium.

Videos said to be from the burial show people chanting opposition slogans including "Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein" and "Our Nasser has not died, it's the government that has died."

In this video, people are chanting "Mubarak, Ben Ali, it's Seyed Ali [Khamenei]'s turn."

Born in Tehran in 1949 Hejazi played for Iran's national team in the 1960s and 1970s. He was ranked as Asia's second-best goalkeeper of the 20th century by the Asian Football Confederation.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda's has posted a photo gallery on the life of Hejazi.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.