"He was one on the most popular personalities in Iran because he dared to criticise the government"
Milad took part in Hajazi ‘s funeral in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium last week.
I arrived in the Azadi Stadium around 11am. Several plainclothes police officers and anti-riot units had been deployed. Tens of thousands of people entered the stadium for the official ceremony. People began chanting slogans such as ‘Hejazi, you spoke in the name of the people.’ They were referring to Hejazi’s harsh criticism of Ahmadinejad’s handling of economic policy. [In April 2011
, the ex-footballer spoke out angrily about the unfair distribution of wealth and budgetary restrictions which most impacted the poorest.] Our chants were clearly anti-government slogans.
The crowd shouts "Goodbye Hejazi, today the brave are mourning" and "Mr Nasser, rise up, your people can't stand it anymore". At 1m38 a group of women enter the stadium. Posted on YouTube.
For the first time, a group of more than a thousand women were allowed to enter the stadium. That’s rather ironic: they have been asking for years to be able to come to the matches, but they were only allowed to enter for the funeral of ‘The Legend’
“The authorities were in such a hurry that they nearly buried the body before the family arrived”
When the security forces realised that they were losing control of the situation, they took the body from the stadium to the Behsht Zahra cemetery whilst tens of thousands of people followed the cortege. I was unable to go, but people who were there told me that the authorities were in such a hurry that they nearly buried the body before the family arrived.
In the cemetery, people started shouting slogans against the regime, like ‘Mubarak, Bin Ali, now it’s your turn Khameni!’ or ‘Hejazi, our true hero!’ [According to another Observer who was there, the security forces tried to beat and arrest several people, but the crowd was too large to be silenced.]
Hejazi was not only a legend for Esteghlal FC fans but for all Iranian football fans. Because he dared to criticise the government, he was one of the most popular personalities of Iran. If the Guardian Council of the Constitution had accepted his presidential candidacy, I think there is a good chance that he would have won. Iranians liked the fact that he had no ties to political parties, but that is also exactly why his candidacy was rejected.”
In the stadium, the corwd shout 'Shame on you!' Posted on YouTube.