- Iran’s participation in the 2022 FIFA World Cup has become mired in controversy due to protests and political unrest.
- Critics say Iran should not participate in the tournament, referring to the players as the “Islamic Republic”.
- The players appeared to show their support for the protesters by not singing the national anthem before their first match.
Representing your country in an international sports tournament is usually a source of pride, excitement and inspiration for both athletes and fans.
For Iranians, the 2022 FIFA World Cup has become mired in controversy due to the ongoing uprising and discontent with the religious regime in their country.
On Monday evening, as the national team lined up for their first game of the tournament back in England, fans expressed mixed feelings. Some made no secret of their support for the protesters, waving banners with messages like “Women, Life, Freedom”.
An Iranian fan of English origin told Reuters the match offered an escape from the political turmoil.
“For some time we try to forget the issues going on in Iran. It was a happy occasion for us to watch the two play together,” he said.
“And I think for 90-100 minutes, with the free time, we didn’t think about what was really going on in reality in Iran.
“I think all people around the world want the best for humanity and Iran is part of that, so I hope things get better.”
Others are frustrated with the team, and view their participation as tacit support for the government.
Before traveling to Doha, the team met with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, and pictures of the players bowing to him sparked a wave of anger on social media.
“I have mixed feelings,” Almira, a university student, told Reuters before the match. “I love football, but with all these children, women and men killed in Iran, I think the national team should not play.”
It is not the team of Iran, it is the team of the Islamic Republic ».
On Monday, Captain Ehsan Hajsefi spoke publicly about the case for the first time.
“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said.
“We are here but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be their voice or we shouldn’t respect them.”
At the start of the match, the players chose not to sing the national anthem. Instead, he remained silent in what appeared to be a signal of support for the protesters at home.
One fan, who asked not to be named, told Reuters they were proud of the team for not singing.
“We are all sad that our people are being killed in Iran but we are all proud of our team because they didn’t sing the national anthem – because it’s not our national anthem, it’s only for the regime,” they said. .
Before the match, which Iran lost 6-2, British-Iranian comedian Omid Jalili, expressed his support for the protesters. .
“They are protesting against the apartheid of the sexes,” he said.
“Iran (the Islamic regime) is a terrorist state that oppresses women; women are not allowed to go to football matches.”
Some fans attended matches in the 2022 FIFA World Cup showing signs of support for Iranian women. source: GT / Maryam Majd/ATP Pictures
Jalili said Iran should have been banned from the tournament.
“They should have been kicked out of the World Cup,” he said, “They violated all FIFA laws against discrimination.”
“Iran’s players had a meeting with Raisi and bowed to their masters, bowed to the terrorists, so they do not represent the Iranian people,” he said.
What is happening in Iran?
On September 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini She wore the hijab incorrectly.
In the next two months, an anti-government uprising swept across the country, demanding better treatment of women and the overthrow of theocratic rule.
As the unrest continued to escalate, the police and government began a crackdown on the protesters.
The activist Hana news agency said 410 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Saturday, including 58 minors.
Also, 54 members of the security forces were killed, and at least 17,251 people were arrested. The authorities did not provide an estimate of any higher number of deaths.