'Immoral' Iran Footballers Facing The Lash

'Immoral' Iran Footballers Facing The Lash

Two Iranian footballers are facing 74 lashes after an "immoral" goal celebration on the pitch.

Footage of the live televised match showed defender Mohammad Nosrati pinching the bottom of Persepolis teammate Sheys Rezaei during a goal celebration against rivals Damash Gilan.

Now Rezaei and Nosrati are facing a flogging, possibly on the pitch where the celebration took place, after a judge said they may have violated public chastity laws.

Judge Valiollah Hosseini told the state-run Fars news agency that the punishment for violating the chastity law is up to two months in prison and 74 lashes.

"It is even worse to do these actions before the eyes of thousandds of spectators and TV cameras," he was quoted as saying.

YouTube footage of the celebration quickly went viral and has been featured on numerous Western media websites.

In another YouTube video Rezaei is shown hugging another, unidentified teammate to celebrate Persepolis's winning goal in the final minutes of a 3-2 win.

Rezaei and Nosrati, known as the "Minister of Defence" for his skills on the pitch, have already been banned from football for an "indefinite period" and fined the equivalent of £25,000 for the "immoral" acts.

Both players have also been suspended by Tehran-based Persepolis, which is financially backed by the government.

In recent years the Iranian federation has toughened the rules governing on-field behaviour including sanctioning the use of foul language by players and spectators.

Homosexuality is outlawed in Iran and can carry the death penalty.

In 2007, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously declared in a speech at Columbia University in New York City that there were "no gays" in Iran.

A presidential aide later conceded that there are in fact homosexuals in Iran.