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Fans upset at misleading rumors of Tractor Sazi victory

We have received local reports of possible political meddling in the final game to determine the Iranian Pro League champions. According to local sources, plain-clothed government officials spread rumors within Sahand Stadium claiming that Tractor Sazi’s main competitor, Sepahan, had tied Saypa during a simultaneous match, putting Tractor Sazi in the league lead.

Under the false pretenses, Tractor Sazi was expected to tie Naft Tehran to maintain their lead. Sepahan had, in fact, beaten Saypa to hold a total point lead over Tractor Sazi. The team, along with supporters, rushed the field after the game with the expectation that Tractor Sazi had won.

The misleading information may have swayed team in the final minutes of the game to change their strategy to maintain their 3-3 tie rather than seeking the extra point to win.

Within the last 20 minutes, midfielder Andranik Teymourian, was issued a red card and the team was forced to play with one less man on the field. Immediately following Teymourian’s exit, Naft Tehran recovered their 3-1 deficit to tie the team.

Many fans are now claiming foul play as neither of the stations that were covering the match showed the cause for the red card nor did they show any replays of the penalty. Fans have flocked to social media to claim that Teymourian was sacked unfairly, and that it was a politically-motivated maneuver with the aim of preventing the Azerbaijani national team from a victory.

The atmosphere within the stadium quickly shifted from celebratory to anger after the referee’s call. To control the mood, government agents spread the false information about Tractor Sazi’s standing to maintain crowd control. The entire stadium, including the team, was convinced that they had become league champions.

Immediately following the end of the match, referees and players of Naft Tehran were rushed outside of the stadium to prevent reprisals and violence once fans had learned that Sepahan had indeed won. This has lead many to believe that the government officials had in fact manipulated the game.

The championship bout in Tabriz has been one of the most charged games in Iran’s most recent football memory. Throughout the game, Tractor Sazi fans were heard chanting their usual pro-Azerbaijani nationalist slogans. Fans had poured into Tabriz from the Azerbaijani provinces in northwestern Iran to watch what they hoped would be a league victory. The stadium quickly filled to capacity and many were reported to crowd on top of a hill adjacent to the stadium to watch the match. The game garnered so much attention that police were forced to barricade roads leading to Sahand Stadium to prevent overcrowding.

Tractor Sazi Azerbaijan, or Trakhtur as it is known the local Turkish dialect, has become the unofficial team of South Azerbaijan and serves as a point of pride for Azerbaijani national identity in Iran. Azerbaijani-Turks gather in the tens of thousands for each game to not only support their team, but also to chant national slogans calling for self-determination as well as greater linguistic and cultural rights. It is quite common for Azerbaijani activists to be arrested during Tractor Sazi matches.

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