Sardar Azmoun, a 23-year-old striker with the Iranian national team, was perhaps his country’s best hope for offense, both at this World Cup and in future competitions. But Azmoun couldn’t score a goal in any of his team’s three games, and after absorbing the fallout since Iran’s elimination, he seems to have decided that playing international soccer isn’t worth his family receiving abuse from fans.
In a post on Instagram, Azmoun said that he has decided to leave the Iranian national team, citing the toll that insults from fans have taken on his mother, who had been previously ill (translation via Reuters):
“Playing in my national team has been a great honour for me and I will be proud of myself to the end of my days. Unfortunately ... I have come to the decision to say goodbye to my national team.
“This is one of the most painful and significant life decisions for a youth of 23, who faced great hardships to get here ...
“My mother had overcome a serious illness and I was happy, but unfortunately because of the unkindness of some people, and the insults that me and my teammates in no way deserved, her illness has become severe.
“This has put me in a difficult position where I must pick one or the other - and as a result I pick my mother.”
Azmoun played every minute of his team’s World Cup games, in which they went 1-1-1 and fell just one point short of advancing to the knockout round. He was already fifth on his country’s all-time list of goalscorers, with 23 goals in 36 appearances.