The national team shows that it supports the anti-government protests that are taking place after the death of Mahsa Amini.
In a dramatic show of solidarity with protesters in Iran, the country’s men’s national football team decided not to play the national anthem during its World Cup opener against England.
The unrest in Iran began in September when a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of morality police. Protests have spread across the country, challenging the government’s rule even as security forces crack down on them. Hundreds of people have died in the violence.
The decision not to play the national anthem is not the first time that the Iranian team has shown interest in the protesters. At the end of September, the team chose to wear black jackets to cover the national colors for their friendly against Senegal.
The Iranian football team has worn black to hide their national colors in protest against the death of Mahsa Amini. pic.twitter.com/eicXK2pcJU
— Chris Walker (@WalkerATX) September 27, 2022
Before flying to Doha for the World Cup, the team met with President Ebrahim Raisi. The rally did not go down well with the opposition, and the team’s flags were burned on the eve of the race.
Iran’s beach soccer, water polo and basketball teams also recently refused to play the national anthem. At a press conference on Wednesday, the head of Iran’s national football team, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, refused to confirm whether his team would play the anthem.
“It’s something that also needs to be considered in the team, something we’ve talked about before and obviously everyone is talking,” he said.
Before Monday’s game, some Iranian fans in Qatar also showed support for the protesters back home. They wore T-shirts that read, “Women, life, freedom”, which is a popular song of the group that has been around since Amini’s death.
The football team’s decision to remain silent during the anthem in the main stadium represents the greatest courage of the country’s professional athletes. It is not known if the players have faced any problems.
On Sunday, defender Ehsan Hajsafi became the first Iranian player at the World Cup to speak out in support of the protests.
“They need to know that we are with them and we support them and we sympathize with what is going on,” he said.
England also took a strong stance against racism and inequality. Although they did not regret their September friendlies, they have decided to do all the games they will play in the World Cup.
“We think it’s a powerful message to travel around the world and especially for young people to see that inclusion is very important,” England manager Gareth Southgate said on Sunday.