Most of Iran’s national soccer team players did sing the national anthem in the lead-up to the second match at the World Cup in Qatar, after their silence in the first match was interpreted as a veiled endorsement of the protests sparked after the death of young Mahsa Amini.
The national soccer team had traditionally been a unifying force for Iranians, but in recent weeks it has been embroiled in all sorts of controversy. It has been criticized for its players’ alleged gestures both for and against the regime.
On November 14, she posed with the president, Ebrahim Raisi, which was understood as an alignment towards the government at a time when thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the death of Amini, arrested for improperly wearing the veil, and to demand social advances.
On Monday, however, the players avoided singing the anthem, which was interpreted as a gesture of criticism. Iranian state television, in fact, interrupted the broadcast to avoid showing it, given that even the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has publicly warned all athletes «not to disrespect» the country.
On Thursday, Iranian security forces arrested soccer player Voria Ghafouri in Iran for insulting the national team and promoting messages contrary to the interests of the Islamic Republic, Fars news agency reported.
Slogans in favor of women and freedom in Iran have also been seen in the stands and on the streets of Qatar. According to ‘The Guardian’, booing was heard on Friday when the Iranian anthem was played in the stadium.
CELEBRATION After the match, which ended in a victory for Iran against Wales, the official Iranian media have broadcast images of celebrations in the streets of Tehran, where hundreds of people had gathered to commemorate the 0-2 victory that gives the country the chance to advance to the round of 16.
The government has also joined in the celebrations. Foreign Minister Hosein Amirabdolahian applauded the «glorious victory» on Twitter, although he had not spoken out after the team’s defeat in its World Cup opener.