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Two Iranian Players Retire From International Soccer After Online Insults

Reza Ghoochannejhad (file photo)

Two top Iranian players have said they are retiring from international soccer after being targeted online by angry fans following Iran's failure to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup in Russia.

Striker Sardar Azmun said he made the decision because online criticism of his performance had harmed his mother's health.

Azmun, 23, had been Iran's top scorer, with 11 goals in qualification for the finals of the World Cup. But he faced a hail of criticism on social media after failing to score in any of Iran's three Group B games in Russia.

Azmun said the "insults" had led to the further deterioration of his mother's fragile health, and he had decided to retire from the national squad to protect her.

Between football and his mother, he wrote on Instagram, "I chose my mother."

A second player, 30-year-old Reza Ghoochannejhad, says he's also leaving the national team, after being a substitute in all three games.

Iran was sent home after it won only four points out of a possible nine in three games, beating Morocco 1-0 before losing to Spain by the same score and drawing 1-1 with Portugal in the final group match.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP