London, Jun 24: The Iranian football players, who wore green wristbands to protest against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have reportedly been banned from the team for life. Green was adopted as the colour of Mir Hossain Mousavi's campaign, and has been widely displayed in opposition street protests in Iran's post-election turmoil.
At least seven Iranian players wore the bands in the first half against South Korea, although most were forced to take them off before the second.
A pro-government newspaper reported they had been 'retired' from the national team after several members wore green tape on their wrists in a World Cup qualifier against South Korea in Seoul.
Other newspapers said the players were retiring voluntarily, reportedly because of their age, but at least one suggested they were forced out, The Telegraph reports.
The speculation focused on two players who both wore green wristband in Seoul, Ali Karimi, and Mehdi Mahdavikia. However, both had earlier announced plans to quit soon because of their age.
The Seoul incident was a gesture of solidarity with opposition leader Mir Hossain Mousavi whose supporters accuse the government of rigging Iran's Jun 12 election in favour of the hardline Ahmadinejad.
Mahdavikia is one of Iran's biggest sports heroes for a goal he scored to eliminate the United States during the first round of the World Cup in 1998.