An international Iranian goalkeeper, Sosha Makani has been suspended for six months from domestic competition for ‘inappropriate’ conduct.
The professional footballer who has represented Iran’s national team, had a picture of him posted online, showing him wearing what has been described as a pair of American animation character, SpongeBob SquarePants.
In the picture, Makani was seen in a colourful outfit, wearing yellow trousers with black dots, a blue t-shirt, black belt, and blue-patterned converse shoes.
A committee in charge of policing the morality of Iran’s football federation imposed the ban on the 29-year old goalkeeper with Tehran’s well-established Persepolis club, after it deemed his flamboyant pair of bright yellow trousers inappropriate.
Last month, Iranian news agencies reported that Makani, who played for Iran’s national football team at the 2014 World Cup, was being scrutinised by the authorities over his trousers.
Reports say this is not Sosha Makani’s first offense. In January, he was reportedly arrested after pictures of him with a woman he was not related to surfaced on social media.
Though it is not clear if Makani’s penalty could also be related to the previous controversy in January, among the matters reviewed on the Iranian goalkeeper was his unconventional and inappropriate clothing. The ruling however is not final and can be appealed.
Iran is a deeply conservative Islamic republic with strict social laws on dress and behavior, including the obligatory wearing of headscarves for women. Iran also has strict laws against the mixing of unrelated men and women.
Authorities are also concerned about how the country’s cultural and sport figures appear in public, and are particularly sensitive to their appearances on social media.
In recent months, Iran has arrested, and sometimes lashed, hundreds of men and women for mixed partying and drinking alcohol – both against Islamic Sharia, in force in the country since 1979.
Activists fear that an increasing sensitivity towards dress and appearance on the part of Iranian authorities amounts to an intrusion into people’s private lives.
Iranians have reacted with incredulity, outrage and sarcasm to the committee’s verdict. One user joked on Twitter that Makani was lucky because had he worn a pair of SpongeBob boxer shorts, he would have been given a death sentence.