An Iranian state TV network’s unusual decision to censor the crest of Italian football club AS Roma has helped the club attract a big following of Iranian fans to its new Persian Twitter account.
AS Roma’s head of digital media, Paul Rogers, posted a tweet Wednesday, saying the club’s Persian Twitter account had “really good local fan feedback” in the first 24 hours since it launched a day earlier.
The @ASRoma_Persian account’s following had risen further to 22,000 by late Wednesday, U.S. time.
In a Tuesday statement posted on its website, AS Roma said the launch of the Persian Twitter account was a first for a major European football club. It said the move will allow it to communicate directly on the social media platform with Iranian fans and other Persian speakers around the world.
The launch coincided with AS Roma beating Spanish club Barcelona 3-0 in Rome on Tuesday in a European Champions League quarterfinal second leg match. It was a surprising result that enabled the Italian team to reach the Champions League semifinals after having suffered a 4-1 defeat at Barcelona in the quarterfinal first leg on April 4. AS Roma tied Barcelona 4-4 on aggregate and advanced on away goals scored.
AS Roma said it had been inundated with supportive tweets from Iranian fans after Iranian state TV’s third channel partially censored the club’s crest during an April 4 broadcast of the quarterfinal first leg.
The AS Roma crest contains an image of Rome’s mythical twin founders Romulus and Remus sucking the teats of the Capitoline Wolf. Viewers noticed that the Iranian TV channel blurred the female wolf’s nipples when displaying the crest in a box next to the program’s anchor. A screen grab of the blurred logo posted by Denmark-based Iranian sports journalist Mehdi Rostampour on his Telegram channel went viral, with football fans making fun of it.
Rostampour joined the mockery, writing: “In 3,000 years, Remus and Romulus were only deprived of their mother’s milk, but Iran’s state broadcaster deprived them of even a wolf’s milk.” There were no reports of any response from the Iranian broadcaster to the backlash.
Iranian state media regularly censor images deemed sexual in nature by the nation’s Islamist clerical rulers. That practice was the focus of VOA Persian’s Straight Talk call-in show on Wednesday, with some callers in Iran telling the program that they think such censorship is good because it protects children from seeing inappropriate images.
Other callers criticized the Iranian government’s censorship policies. One woman, who gave her name as Afsaneh and said she was calling from the northeastern city of Mashhad, said censorship has a harmful psychological and financial impact on Iranian society, particularly by pressuring women to dress conservatively and keep a low profile in public arenas.
VOA Persian’s Behrooz Samadbeygi, Afshar Sigarchi and Mohammad Naficy contributed to this report.