Breaking: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Exclusive Internet Privileges in Tehran Spark Outrage

Ronaldo a special SIM card to access unblocked internet
Image source: ALJAZEERA


  • Exclusive SIM cards for foreign footballers in Iran stir controversy.
  • Persepolis FC’s president seeks to provide unrestricted internet access.
  • Iranians resort to VPNs as internet restrictions persist.
  • Iran-Saudi Arabia football reconciliation after a seven-year rift.

In Tehran, Iran, there is a growing controversy surrounding the intention to provide special SIM cards to foreign football players like Cristiano Ronaldo, who will soon arrive in the city.

These unique SIM cards will grant them unrestricted internet access, a privilege not extended to Iranian citizens, and this has sparked discontent among some segments of the Iranian population.

Reza Darvish, the president of Persepolis FC, the football club set to compete against Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in an upcoming AFC Champions League match in Tehran, revealed during a recent interview with state television that certain individuals, whom he described as seeking to tarnish their reputation, have been dissuading footballers from coming to Iran due to concerns about restricted internet access. 

In response, Darvish has initiated discussions with the CEO of the prominent mobile carrier, Irancell, expressing the club’s desire to provide players and staff with Irancell SIM cards that offer unrestricted internet connectivity throughout their stay in Iran.

It’s important to note that internet access in Iran is heavily regulated, with tens of thousands of websites and major global messaging and social media platforms blocked. 

These restrictions were significantly intensified following the events of mid-September 2022 when the tragic death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody triggered widespread protests across the country that persisted for months.

At that time, authorities argued that foreign platforms, beyond their local supervision, posed a threat to national security, as foreign powers were accused of supporting “riots” within Iran. Consequently, WhatsApp and Instagram, the last two major platforms without content filters in Iran, were also blocked.

In response to these restrictions, millions of Iranians have resorted to using virtual private networks (VPNs) to obscure their online locations and bypass local constraints.

However, these tools have also faced stringent crackdowns by authorities in the past year, forcing users to frequently switch between multiple VPNs, a time-consuming and costly process that hinders their internet usage.

Authorities have consistently maintained that they would consider unblocking major foreign apps only if their parent companies establish offices in Iran and appoint permanent representatives to respond to state inquiries. To date, no company has acquiesced to this demand.

As the anniversary of the protests approaches, the internet observatory, NetBlocks, reported disruptions in internet services this week. Information and Communications Technology Minister Issa Zarepour, echoing his predecessors, denied government involvement in internet filtering and suggested that decisions regarding these restrictions originate from higher security entities. 

He did mention that officials are currently “reassessing” some of these restrictions, but provided no further details.

Tourism Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami, who had previously proposed the idea of special SIM cards for tourists to access unrestricted internet, playfully suggested that Cristiano Ronaldo would need to rely on local messaging services to communicate with his family during his visit.

He even jokingly recommended using the Bale and Eitaa platforms, both of which enjoy government support. 

However, this announcement has not been well-received by many Iranians online, who view it as an affront to their rights and discriminatory towards Iranian citizens.

Journalist Ehsan Bodaghi expressed his dissatisfaction on Twitter, asserting that foreign stars like Ronaldo should not receive preferential treatment over Iranian citizens. He emphasized that such treatment diminishes the rights of every Iranian.

Sahar Tolouee, another journalist, drew parallels between this situation and the discrimination faced by women in Iranian stadiums, where they have long been denied access. She highlighted the feelings of humiliation and inequality shared by many Iranian women.

The upcoming match between Ronaldo’s team and Persepolis FC at Tehran’s Azadi stadium is expected to be devoid of spectators due to an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ban related to licensing regulations. 

Other prominent footballers such as Neymar and Karim Benzema are also set to visit Iran as their respective teams, Al Hilal and Al Ittihad, are scheduled to compete against Nassaji Mazandaran and Sepahan on October 2 and 3.

Earlier this month, the AFC announced that Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached a “groundbreaking” agreement to resume home-and-away football matches, ending a seven-year rift that led to the suspension of bilateral relations in 2016.

Since 2016, Iranian and Saudi Arabian teams have played each other on neutral grounds in Dubai and Doha. 

Following the diplomatic reconciliation brokered by China in March and the subsequent deployment of ambassadors, this marks a significant step toward normalizing relations between the two nations.


Adam Pierce

Adam Pierce is a seasoned technology journalist and professional content writer who has a genuine passion for delivering the latest tech news and updates. With a wealth of experience in the field, Adam is committed to providing NwayNews readers with accessible, informative, and engaging content. He aims to keep readers well-informed about the latest breakthroughs, gadget releases, and industry trends through his articles.

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