Retired Iranian football great Ali Daei, who has expressed his support for the months-long wave of protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, will not be able to attend a FIFA ceremony because he cannot leave the country.

Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency reported that Daei, who was invited to attend The Best FIFA Football Awards scheduled to be held on February 27 in Switzerland, cannot leave the country.

Daei, 53, a former striker for German football giants Bayern Munich whose 109 goals at the international level went unsurpassed until Cristiano Ronaldo overtook him, is one of Iran’s most famous soccer players.

Daei previously announced that he had been summoned by the authorities for his comments in support of the protests and had his passport confiscated.

Since the start of nationwide protests following the death of Amini in September while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, numerous Iranian celebrities and sports personalities have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated after voicing support for the protests.

The unrest has put women’s rights in Iran and the lack of freedoms in general in Iran in the spotlight.

Authorities have responded to the unrest with a wave of brutal and often deadly repression.

In December, Daei said that an airplane from Tehran to Dubai had been rerouted and his family ordered off.

Another Iranian professional soccer player, Amir Nasr-Azadani, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for “assisting in waging war against God.” Nasr-Azadani had faced a potential death sentence.

Ali Karimi, a former soccer player with Bayern Munich and once the captain of Iran’s national soccer team, has also been a target of the government for his support of the protesters and his posts on social media, including on Instagram, where he has nearly 15 million followers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described efforts by celebrities to support the protesters as “worthless” and has called for judicial action against them.

Since Amini’s death, more than 500 people have been killed in the police crackdown, according to rights groups. Thousands more have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

Source » rferl