Former Iranian soccer player Ali Karimi has changed his place of residence again for fear of attacks. “I have received death threats from various sources. So I was forced to distance myself even further from Iran. So I had to move again,” said the 44-year-old, who previously lived in Dubai and connected via video, on Monday evening at the theme evening “Woman, Life, Freedom – Iranian Athletes” in the German Football Museum. “It’s a terrible feeling to be in exile. My hope is that the woman-life-freedom revolution will be successful,” Karimi commented.

The former FC Bayern Munich and FC Schalke 04 professional had shown solidarity with the protest movement in his home country from the start. For this he received encouragement from many compatriots who took to the streets after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. According to media reports, the domestic judiciary had brought charges against the 129-time national player. The judiciary had applied for criminal prosecution against him because of “solidarity with the enemy” and the accusation of inciting riots.

Karimi hopes that other footballers and athletes will join the protest movement: “National players in particular always have a place in the hearts of their country’s fans. If you look at this special platform, I think it is the duty of every footballer to be involved in social issues,” he said: “It is my wish that every athlete finds his place on the right page of history and committed to the woman-life-liberty revolution.”

He has little interest in considering a boycott of Iranian sport: “Every athlete should take part in major competitions such as the Olympic Games. Because they offer the only way to spread the voice of the Iranian people across the country.” Nevertheless, Karimi called on “the global and Olympic public” to “stop any activities by political or military forces in Iranian sports”.