The recent FIFA World Cup match between Iran and England saw a VAR-assisted victory for the English team. Still, it was also marked by an unsettling display of political protest from the Iranian players.
According to reports, some members of Iran’s national soccer team refused to sing their country’s national anthem before kickoff, choosing instead to silently mouth the words or stand with their heads bowed.
This apparent act of defiance against the government drew fire from officials in Tehran, who summoned members of the IRGC after the game ended. It has since been alleged that one primary motivation behind this punishment was retribution against family members of any player who dared participate in such protests.
The IRGC is said to have warned afterward that any player who did not sing the Anthem or showed support for anti-government protests would leave their families open to violence and torture as retaliation – a threat that potentially puts innocent relatives at great risk for exercising free speech rights.
“There are large number of Iranian security officers in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players,” Players are not permitted to interact with foreigners while the World Cup is underway, the source told CNN.
When the Iranian national soccer team played Wales on Friday, they found themselves under pressure from more than just the other side of the field. Ahead of kickoff, reports emerged that players’ families had been threatened with violence and torture by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) if any team member made a political statement or protested during gameplay.
Players can protest at the World Cup within the bounds of FIFA regulations, according to Carlos Quieroz, the Iranian team’s Portuguese coach, who reportedly spoke separately with IRGC officers.
Mahsa Amini, detained by Iran’s “morality police” in Tehran on September 13 for reportedly donning her headscarf too loosely, passed away three days later. Massive protests in Iran started on September 17 at her funeral.
What happened to Mahsa is a tragic injustice that must be addressed. But what’s happening now in Iran—with people taking to the streets to demand their rights and freedom.
Sincere Condolences to Amini’s Family:
The family of Amini alleges that she was “severely beaten” while in prison, despite Iranian authorities’ claims that she passed away from a heart attack. “Respectable doctors,” according to a lawyer for the family, think she was likely beaten while being held captive. An event that provoked weeks of demonstrations, during which some women burned their hijabs and hacked off their hair in front of the public.
This troubling news comes as Iranian General Abdolkarim Soleimani admitted for the first time on Monday that more than 300 people have died during weeks of unrest across Iran. The male soccer captain of Iran’s national team stated in favor of last week’s anti-government demonstrations.
“I would like to express my condolences to all bereaved families in Iran,” said Ehsan Hajsafi at a news conference. “They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions.”
“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he added. “We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we should not respect them.”
The United States Soccer Federation stirred up some controversy on social media when they changed Iran’s flag to show support for Iranian demonstrators. Some officials in Iran are demanding on Sunday that the US be expelled from the 2022 World Cup. However, other observers feel that this could backfire and rally more international support for the protesters in Iran.
The federation has momentarily removed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s flag from its official Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook profiles. A graphic of the Group B standings posted Saturday only showed Iran’s green, white and red colors.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, US Soccer stated that it had always intended to return to the original flag but wanted to modify it for 24 hours to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”
According to US Soccer, the modification “was a one-time graphic.” “We have the main flag on our website and other places.” The logo on US Soccer’s social media accounts is currently back on the flag.