Vafa picks the ‘perfect’ moment

Vafa picks the ‘perfect’ moment

The 31-year-old was physically present in a Chennaiyin ‘blue’, but was mentally disturbed with what is happening back home.

CHENNAI: A few hours after Chennaiyin FC’s 2-1 win over ATK Mohun Bagan in its Indian Super League 2022-23 opener in Kolkata last month, the southern club’s Iranian central defender Vafa Hakhamaneshi wrote on an Instagram story: “Unfortunately, my country, Iran, and its people are not doing well. So, give me the right to not be with you (fans) to enjoy the team’s victory. I am very happy for your happiness.”

The 31-year-old was physically present in a Chennaiyin ‘blue’, but was mentally disturbed with what is happening back home. So, Vafa, known for being at the right place at the right time in both the boxes, waited for the ‘perfect’ moment to display a message of solidarity with Iranians, who are protesting against the government over the death of a woman – Mahsa Amini – for breaking the hijab law.

In CFC’s 1-0 away victory over East Bengal FC in Kolkata on Friday, Vafa netted the winning goal with a thumping header, following which he came up with a ‘powerful’ celebration. After running to the camera behind the goal, the towering centre-back partially removed his jersey to show a message that read: “#WOMEN #LIFE #FREEDOM FOR… 11:11”

Talking to DT Next on Saturday, Vafa emphasised that he wanted to raise voice for his people with the ‘touching’ celebration. “Everything in Iran has been blocked – the internet has been blocked… social media has been blocked. The TV channels are not true (reliable) while speaking about the government. They are being controlled by the government,” said Vafa.

“Some people live and work outside Iran. This (the celebration) is a reaction for the situation in Iran. I want to show everybody what the situation in Iran is. 11:11… for me, it is very important. I have a specially designed logo. It is something personal,” added Vafa.

Moments after celebrating with his teammates, Vafa was sent off as the referee brandished a second yellow card for displaying a ‘political’ message. The defender had received his first yellow card around the hour mark for a rash tackle.

Asked if he was aware that he was already on a yellow card, Vafa replied: “Yes, I knew. At that moment, I forgot everything. I was only thinking about that celebration. I was waiting for two weeks, every day and night, for that moment, goal and celebration. After I scored the goal, I forgot everything. I directly went to the camera to show the message.”

Before signing off, a “relieved” Vafa said that he is feeling much better now. “Everyone has been supportive of me – the Chennaiyin fans and teammates. Many Iranian people are sending me messages [on social media]… Indian people are staying with me. I feel very good. I am staying with a family (referring to the CFC family) in India.”

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