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Iran raps US mistreatment of volleyballers, urges apology

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iran's national men's volleyball team

Iran denounces the US for mistreating its national men’s volleyball team, which has traveled to Chicago for the Final Six of the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, calling on Washington to issue an apology for its misbehavior. 

The team was delayed for four hours upon arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Saturday, while the Iranian volleyballers were detained and interrogated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.

Mohsen Baharvand, the Iranian Foreign Ministry official for US affairs, filed a complaint through the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, whose country represents American interests in the Islamic Republic. 

“If America cannot host all sports teams fairly and unbiased, it’d better avoid hosting sport events,” he said.

‘US must apologize’

Additionally, Iran’s Sports and Youth Ministry protested against the US’s “improper behavior” towards Iranian volleyball players.

“The behavior of US officials, as hosts of the  the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Final, towards Iran’s national volleyball team, is nasty and contrary to the Olympic Charter as well as the spirit of the world sports events,” the ministry said in a statement.

It also urged American authorities to apologize to the Iranian athletes.

Igor Kolakovic, the team’s coach, criticized the US detention of the Iranian volleyballers.

“The FIVB Nations League is not organized in a proper manner. How can a team like Iran change continents once a week while teams from France, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, US, and Poland only travel to one or two continents? Why were our young team members not able to obtain a US or even an EU visa? This is not sports,” he said.

Siyamak Afroozi, the team’s doctor, confirmed that CBP agents had interrogated some of the sportsmen and checked their cell phones and luggage.

“We don’t care about the politics. No sportsman cares about the politics,” he said. “Some of our colleagues and one or two of our players had some long, long process.”

Afroozi also noted that it was not the first time that the US mistreated the Iranian volleyballers.

Last year, the Iranian team were subjected to the same behavior upon their arrival at the airport, he said, adding, however, that the Polish team did not go through such rigorous process.

Meanwhile, the International Volleyball Federation said in a statement that it was “aware of and concerned by the reported issues encountered by the Iranian National Volleyball team.”

It, however, claimed that “whilst many of the Iranian delegation were not detained for an unusual period, those that were are understandably upset.”

US Customs and Border Protection spokesman Steve Bansbach also told CNN that “normal CBP procedures were followed and everyone was processed without incident” at O’Hare Airport.

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