In an apparent demonstration of sympathy for anti-government rallies in their home nation, Iranian players chose not to sing their national anthem prior to their World Cup match against England.
The death of Mahsa Amini while in jail in September served as the catalyst for a harsh crackdown on protests in Iran.
Human rights activists have said more than 400 protesters have been killed and 16,800 others arrested in a crackdown by Iran’s security forces.
Iran’s leaders say the protests are “riots” orchestrated by the country’s foreign enemies including the US and Israel.
On Monday, November 21, during the playing of the national anthem, spectators yelled and jeered while others raised signs reading “Woman, Life, Freedom” and the players declined to perform the anthem.
In the first half, Iranian supporters could also be heard chanting “Ali Karimi,” a reference to the former footballer who is one of the most vocal critics of the Islamic Republic and one of the movement’s most well-known figures.
The Persian word “Be-Sharaf,” which means dishonorable, was also being
chanted by the supporters. This is an adverb that Iranian protesters have used to criticize the country’s security forces.
Iran’s captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, stated before the game that the team “support” those who had passed away.
Coach Carlos Queiroz said his players were “free to protest” over women’s rights in their home country as long as it “conforms with the World Cup regulations and is in the spirit of the game”.
Queiroz added that the political unrest at home had taken a toll on his squad.
“It is not right to come to this World Cup and ask them to do things that are not their responsibility,” added the former Manchester United assistant. “They want to bring pride and joy for the people.
“You don’t even imagine behind the scenes what these kids have been living in the last few days, just because they want to express themselves as footballers.”
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