Chavar Soccer Game

The story of a soccer game in Chavar

“Respect,” “fair play,” “fighting against racism,” “unity,” “friendliness,” “coexistence,” etc. are words and concepts that the soccer world has always claimed to support, and they are proud of themselves because of this. From time to time, news of a humanitarian, charitable activity that is somehow related to soccer and soccer institutions appears in the headlines. Sometimes we hear about a group of soccer players and soccer fans purposefully supporting a colored athlete with the goal of playing a role in the establishment of racial justice in society. Holding friendly games to support refugees and people in exile or to sponsor other important social events is something common in the soccer culture. Of course, it should be mentioned that there are many individuals who consider the reality of soccer to be contrary to what has been described here. But if we ignore such theories from theorists and experts in this field for now, the image of soccer in the public eye is a happy, unifying, friendly, peaceful image.

On February 12, 1987, a soccer match was being held in an area called Chavar, which is located in the province of Ilam in western Iran. Undoubtedly, this game tried to fulfill the humanitarian, social mission of soccer. In fact, the goal of the soccer match was to inject joy and hope into this community during the difficult situation that existed in Iran at that time. But the result of this humanitarian effort made by soccer, was far removed from the hopeful, peaceful atmosphere mentioned in the above paragraph.

The game was held between Chavar’s team and a team of the youth from Ilam’s province. The game started at around 2:30 pm. At the end of the first half, everything was going as normal as would be expected in a soccer game. The players were busy playing the game and the spectators were excited about their favorite team. A few minutes after the start of the second half, in the 55th minute, the soccer game between the two young teams from the city of Chavar and the Ilam province came under a military attack. In that year, 1987, Iran had been involved in an imposed and devastating war with Iraq, which was led by Saddam Hussein, for nearly seven years. This military attack was much graver than a normal ground attack. What took place was an aerial bombing of the soccer game. Saddam's planes had targeted the soccer game.

Suddenly, the cheerful environment of the soccer field turned into an environment full of smoke, anxiety and anguish. These were players who had organized this soccer game in order to confront the spirit of despair and apprehension that had been caused by the war (which is a natural phenomenon in war-stricken societies) and to replace it with a spirit of cheerfulness and vitality among the children, teenagers and youth who lived in the border town in Ilam and who had been living in an environment of war for several years. But the Iranian soccer players from Ilam were torn into pieces and died in carrying out this divine, humane mission. The referee, who was in charge of administering justice in the game, was also killed with complete injustice. The mothers whose children had come to watch the game in order to gain energy to be able to continue enduring the hardships of war with a more resilient spirit, either did not see their children again or, at best, suffered the pain of their children’s injuries.

From a military point of view, it is very unlikely that a soccer field could be mistaken for a military target that is to be bombed. Of course, the behavior and morality of Saddam's regime in invading Iran largely obviates the need for military evidence to prove whether the bombing of the soccer field was intentional or unintentional. During the eight years of the Imposed War against Iran, Saddam repeatedly bombed Iranian residential and densely populated areas and also carried out chemical attacks on Iranian soil. In any case, what happened in the Chavar soccer game is undoubtedly a hideous crime in terms of human rights.

This phenomenon raises questions in one’s mind. Why did other countries not condemn the perpetrators of this hideous crime against humanity in 1987, or even after that? How can international media cameras completely cover the entrance of an animal such as a dog, cat or squirrel onto the grass during a soccer game but not find the bombing of a soccer game— that leads to the massacre of a number of players, the referee and spectators—newsworthy enough? Wasn't this crime grave and important enough, among the soccer community, for FIFA to make a symbolic move to commemorate the anniversary of the bombing? Is not the lack of political, media and sports attention and coverage of such an inhuman tragedy itself a kind of bomb attack? An attack on truth, justice, human dignity… .