He played 149 international matches for Iran between 1993 and 2006, scoring a total of 109 goals. He was the selection captain for many years. Ali Daei is a hero to many football supporters in Iran. He reacted with bewilderment to his family’s dramatic ban on leaving the country.

“Did the (security forces, d.R.) arrest terrorists,” the record international was quoted as saying by the Iranian media on Tuesday. He had tried to get a reason for the strange incident from several authorities, but so far in vain, the 53-year-old said, according to the daily newspaper “Etemad”.

His wife and daughter boarded the plane to travel to Dubai on Monday after passport control at Tehran’s IKA Airport. But shortly before Dubai, the plane of the state airline Mahan suddenly turned around and made a stopover on the southern Iranian island of Kish. The two had to get off there. Daei’s wife had to return to Tehran on orders from the security forces, and the daughter should have been allowed to travel on, but she didn’t.

According to Iranian judicial sources, Daei’s wife had shown solidarity with “counter-revolutionary” opponents of the regime during the system-critical protests and had therefore been asked not to leave the country without prior permission. Since she did so anyway, the plane was stopped and her onward flight prevented. However, she was not arrested, as reported by the Mehr news agency, citing sources. In addition, his wife not only wanted to go to Dubai, but from there to the USA.

Daei himself vehemently rejects the information provided by the judiciary. His wife wanted to leave the country legally. If there had been a ban on leaving the country, the police should have informed her at passport control in Tehran. “What’s the point, it was just a short trip and they both wanted to go back next week,” said the ex-footballer.

The incident with Daei’s family is not an isolated one. Other prominent Iranians have also been arrested and imprisoned because of their solidarity with the protests against the Islamic system, which have been going on for more than three months now. According to human rights groups abroad, more than 18,000 demonstrators have been arrested so far. Two demonstrators have already been executed and more than 20 other demonstrators are on the judiciary’s death list. The number of dead is estimated at 500.

Former Bundesliga professional Daei also showed solidarity with the demonstrators after the nationwide protests broke out in mid-September. That’s why his passport was temporarily confiscated by the authorities. In the same context, there is an arrest warrant for former professional Ali Karimi, who played for Bayern Munich and Schalke 04. Former Hamburger SV player Mehdi Mahdavikia resigned as U-21 national coach in protest.