Iranian footballer suspended for wearing SpongeBob trousers

Sosha Makani handed six-month ban by football federations morality committee over photo of him wearing yellow trousers

A professional footballer who has represented Irans national team has been suspended for six months from domestic competition after a picture surfaced online showing him wearing what has been described as a pair of SpongeBob SquarePants trousers.

A committee in charge of policing the morality of Irans football federation imposed the ban on Sosha Makani, a 29-year-old goalkeeper with Tehrans well-established Persepolis club, after it deemed his flamboyant pair of bright yellow trousers inappropriate.

Sosha suspended for six months because of yellow trousers, read the headline of Varzesh3, an Iranian sports news agency. SpongeBob [trousers] cause six-month suspension for Sosha, said the online news agency Asriran.

Sosha Makani wearing the yellow trousers that the Iran football federations morality committee deemed inappropriate. Photograph:

Activists fear that an increasing sensitivity towards dress and appearance on the part of Iranian authorities amounts to an intrusion into peoples private lives. A picture of a celebrated Iranian actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, taken during a press conference in Tehran, has infuriated hardliners because it shows her with a feminist tattoo on her left arm. Some have called for her to be banned from screens.

Last month, Iranian news agencies reported that Makani, who played for Irans national football team at the 2014 World Cup, was being scrutinised by the authorities over his trousers.

The linking of Makanis appearance with the American cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants appears to stem from the fact that he was wearing lurid yellow trousers. American fictional characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Barbie, have not been particularly popular with the Iranian authorities, with shops selling their toys having been targeted in the past. Makanis T-shirt also appears to show a swear word in English.

Authorities are concerned about how the countrys cultural and sport figures appear in public, and are particularly sensitive to their appearances on social media.

An unnamed member of the morality committee was quoted by Varzesh3 as saying that Makani had refused to go to the federation to face questioning on the matter, despite being being summoned. We took this decision because of his appearance and the impact it can have on the society, the official was quoted as saying.

Iranians reacted with incredulity, outrage and sarcasm to the committees 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. Sosha Makanis appearance was awful, but being able to choose what you want to wear is a basic matter in the world, said another user.

A commentator writing on Asrirans website criticised the move, saying that while international federations were busy investigating financial corruption, the Iranian body was worrying itself with players hairstyles or clothing.

Makani has previously fallen foul of the authorities. He was temporarily jailed in January in connection with separate images posted on social media showing him posing with women not wearing the compulsory hijab.

Read more: