Doha, Qatar —
Before a ball was even kicked in Iran’s World Cup
opener against England on Monday, Iran’s players made a powerful statement.
In what seemed to be a show of solidarity with those protesting back home, the players stood silent as the Iranian national anthem played out around the Khalifa International Stadium before kickoff on Monday. The match ended in a 6-2 victory for England.
Protests, chaos and violence have rocked Iran in recent months and threatened the very nature of the country’s regime, which has been in power for more than 40 years.
The protests, referred to by experts as the most significant since the establishment of clerical rule following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police, allegedly for not abiding by the country’s conservative dress code. Iranian security forces have unleashed a violent response.
Before the tournament began, Iran’s manager Carlos Queiroz said players would be allowed to protest while they competed in Qatar.
The silent show of respect on Monday was met with a loud reaction from the Iranian fans, many of whom cheered throughout. It’s unclear whether it was in support of the players.
Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand leaves the pitch on a stretcher after he was injured in a crash on heads with Iran’s defender #19 Majid Hosseini during the game against England.
Queiroz was reluctant to talk about off-the-field issues at his post-match press conference following England’s dominant 6-2 win.
In what seemed to be a show of solidarity with those protesting back home, the players stood silent as the Iranian national anthem played out around the Khalifa International Stadium before kickoff on Monday.
Queiroz sounded frustrated whenever asked about an issue not to do with soccer and didn’t address the national anthem protest directly.
“Those [fans] that came to disturb the team with issues that are not only about football, they aren’t welcome,” said Queiroz, as he sought to protect his players from criticism.
“It’s not the [the players’] fault that the World Cup happens in this moment.
“Let the kids play the game, they want to represent the country, represent the people like any other national team.
“It’s not right to come to this World Cup and ask them to do things that aren’t their responsibility,” added Queiroz.
“In the right moments, we will express our feelings and our opinions.”
On the pitch, Iran could not cope with the quality of England as goals from Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling had England out of sight by the end of the first half.
The impressive Saka added his second in the second half, with further goals from Marcus Rashford and Jack Grelish completing the rout.