Coordinating Manager of the team Amir Khoshkhabar criticized American officials for violating hosting protocols of sportive events, adding that the US must abandon hosting sportive events if they want to keep exercising such offensive behaviors.
The Iranian volleyball team competing in the FIVB Volleyball Men's Nations League in the US were interrogated for four hours by the American police authorities at Chicago airport.
Iran's national volleyball team arrived at Chicago airport on Saturday after 30 hours of flight but they were held for another 4 hours by the US police for interrogation.
Mistreatment by the US police was reported towards the Iranian players and technical staff. They headed to their hotel after four hours.
“We had experienced similar problems in the last year and as result we had warned the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) and the USA Volleyball (USAV), in two separate letters submitted beforehand, that we will not tolerate similar problems [to happen again],” Khoshkhabar underlined.
“They had promised that we would not encounter any problem,” he said, adding that as far as interrogations are conducted indiscriminately for everybody it is acceptable but it would be unacceptable when Iranians are excluded from other travelers and separated since the moment they disembark aircraft.
He added that the airport police in Chicago treated Iranians aggressively, separating the team members from other passengers and escorting them without offering any explanation.
According to Khoshkhabar, after the passports were stamped, Iranian athletes were separately taken to different rooms where they were interrogated about their life background, phone numbers, the address to the base where they did their draft military service, information on parents. He added that the Iranian volleyball players were even asked if any member of their family was a civil worker
Khoshkhabar then recounted that for two hours they were questioned for the photos and posts in their cellphones. “They took our cell phones and forced us to give in our pin code. Then they examined the posts and photos we put on our social media pages, asking questions about our intentions and the content of the posts,” he complained.
He added that the team has lost its morale after the incident where Iranians were held in custody like criminals. “The images [of the offensive behaviors in the airport] are hunting the minds of the team members who were very angry to see other teams marching in front of them happily and freely.”
Siamak Afrouzi, a physician of the team, said that the cell phones of the members of the team were intensively scrutinized while sportsmen are not involved in political games.
“We are here for the sole sake of sports and we have nothing to do with politics but…,” he said, adding, “It is not the first time American are behaving like this. Last year, we arrived in the US simultaneously with the Polish, but again we were kept in the airport for thorough investigations and the team of Poland left the airport immediately.”
Igor Kolakovic, the Head Coach of the Iranian National Volleyball Team, said at the time that "the FIVB Nations League is not organized in a proper manner. How can a team like Iran change continents once a week while teams from France, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, US, and Poland only travel to one or two continents? Why were our young team members not able to obtain a US or even an EU visa? This is not sports".
Asked about the US treatment of Iran’s team, he said, “Our team was interrogated by the FBI upon arrival. Some of the players had to answer the nonsensical questions asked by border control police one by one. The US police kept our team in a small room at the airport for three hours while the Polish team left the airport there and then, with a smile on their faces and no formalities.”
The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) said in a statement that it was "aware of and concerned by the reported issues encountered by the Iranian National Volleyball team," adding, "Whilst many of the Iranian delegation were not detained for an unusual period, those that were are understandably upset."
US Customs and Border Protection Spokesman Steve Bansbach told CNN in a statement that "normal CBP procedures were followed and everyone was processed without incident" at O'Hare Airport.
The Iranian Ministry of Sports and Youths issued a statement on Monday where it described American officials' behavior towards Iranian volleyball players as offensive and against Olympic charter, adding that such behavior is unacceptable from the host of the Volleyball Nations League (VNL) final match.
The ministry called for the US’ official apology.
Condemning the US’ anti-sport behavior, Iranian ministry hoped for the world federation not to grant hosting of the event in such level to US.
The same behavior was shown towards the young Iranian volleyball players last year too.
Earlier on Monday, The Iranian foreign ministry summoned Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Markus Leitner whose country represents the US interests in the Islamic Republic to protest at the American police's lack of courtesy toward Iranian athletes.
Iranian Foreign Minister’s Aide and the General Director for American Affairs at the ministry Mohsen Baharvand in a meeting with Leitner protested at the US interrogation of Iran's volleyball players.
"If the US cannot host all sports teams fairly and impartially, it had better avoid hosting sports games," he said during the meeting, protesting at the US authorities' mistreatment of the Iranian team.
The president of Iran’s Volleyball Federation also commented on the incident, saying, “This is politics. I don’t know why they did it. Do our athletes have anything else to do but play sports? Their approach is not logical."
Earlier this month, Kolakovic said that the Iranian team will fight for victories in the final round of the 2019 FIVB Men’s Volleyball Nations League in Chicago.