U.S. Markets close in 1 hr 15 mins

World Cup: Iran striker retires at 23 because criticism made his mother sick

Iran’s Sardar Azmoun is retiring from international competition because fan criticism has made his mother physically ill. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Sardar Azmoun, a striker on Iran’s national soccer team, has opted for early retirement. Azmoun is just 23, but announced his decision to retire from international competition on Thursday.

Via India Today, Azmoun said in a social media post that it was a difficult decision.

“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.”

The reason he gave was simple: The criticism he’s received over his performance, and the performance of his team, is making his mother sick. Azmoun’s mother recently recovered from a serious illness, but hearing what people have been saying about her son and his teammates hasn’t helped her stay healthy.

“Unfortunately because of the unkindness of some people, and the insults that me and my team-mates 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.”

Iran wasn’t able to advance out of the group stage at the World Cup, but their performance wasn’t a total loss. They beat Morocco in their opening match and drew with Portugal. They lost against Spain, but the score was just 1-0. Azmoun didn’t score a goal during any of his three World Cup matches, but played all 90 minutes of each one.

The loss of Azmoun will be tough for Iran’s national team. He made his international debut at just 19, and is fifth on his country’s list of all-time scorers.

– – – – – –

Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

More World Cup on Yahoo Sports:

Brazilians hold ‘funeral’ for Germany after World Cup flameout
TV host makes racist gesture when South Korea saves Mexico
President Trump: Russia doing a ‘fantastic job’ hosting World Cup
Why do defending World Cup champs struggle to succeed?