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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 16:29 GMT
Bayern Munich deny backing Iran
Ballack heads a ball during the match
Michael Ballack scored in Bayern's victory against Persepolis
German football club Bayern Munich has rejected criticism from politicians for playing a friendly match in Iran against the Persepolis Tehran.

Bayern's sporting director, Uli Hoeness, said the game did not show support for Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr Hoeness said Bayern were "playing for the people, not for the regime".

Mr Ahmadinejad has been condemned for calling for Israel's destruction and saying the Nazi Holocaust was a "myth".

Tehran is also under pressure from the West over its decision this week to restart nuclear fuel research, part of a controversial nuclear programme that Western countries fear could be used to make nuclear weapons.


Bayern organised the friendly after a match against a club in Dubai was cancelled because of the death of the Gulf emirate's ruler, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum two weeks ago.

Oliver Khan signs autographs in Iran
Bayern have insisted they played for Iranian fans

"Communication is important, not confrontation," Mr Hoeness said.

"We want to reduce this to soccer only."

German media reports say the club received a large fee for the match.

Bayern lost their last friendly match in Iran in 1972, when the team was led by Franz Beckenbauer. On Friday, the German team beat Persepolis 2-1.

World Cup

There has also been support by sections of the media and politicians for expelling Iran from this year's football World Cup in Germany, in response to the Iranian president's remarks about Israel and the Holocaust.

Such comments could get him arrested in Germany.

Opponents of sucha ban say it would not hurt the Iranian government, but the fans.

"The football players shouldn't be punished because of what the president says," one Iranian fan said.

The BBC's Ray Furlong says German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Iran should not be banned, but the debate is rumbling on - a sign of how agitated German society is by a potential cocktail of Holocaust denial and nuclear weapons.

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