It is not yet clear what the silence during the national anthem at the World Cup means for Iranian football players. Their families might also be in danger now.
Iran’s national coach, Carlos Queiroz, has rarely been this frantic after losing to England (2:6) at the World Cup in the tent at the Khalifa International Stadium. Reporters from all over the world wore masks while a football coach gasped. He told reporters, “Moralists and teachers, let the children play the game. Don’t take away the fun and happiness.”
By kids, he meant the 69-year-old kicks that could really be kids. “It’s not right to ask them about things they can’t do anything about.” By this he meant addressing the protests in Iran. The brought back coach feels that his players cannot please anyone, given the “explosive conditions” (Queroz).
Iranian football player in trouble
The team, which remained silent when the national anthem was played, took a critical stance against the mullah regime, which violently suppressed the protest movement at home after the death of young Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini.
Players of “Team Melli”, called the national team, now put themselves in a difficult situation. On the one hand, they gave the impression of loyalty to the government by meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi and the Revolutionary Guards chief strategist Hassan Abbais before the tournament. In Qatar, the same players at SC al-Rayyan’s training ground assured that their job was just football.
Now the silent protest was a clear expression of solidarity for the demonstrators fighting for women’s liberation rights. Many Iranian fans also carried the slogan (Woman. Life. Freedom.) to Qatar on their t-shirts. Iranian state television blurred scenes of the anthem in a live broadcast.
Unpredictable consequences for players and their families
It is said that the regime is angry and will evaluate how and when players will feel their anger. In any case, family members should expect to be put under pressure. Activists affiliated with the Berlin-based organization Discover Football, who are well-informed about Iranian issues, say nothing is known about it yet.
Under the direct influence of the government, the Iranian newspaper “Keyhan” angrily said: “The non-patriotic players did not sing the national anthem.” At that moment, tears rolled down the cheeks of some of the women in the stadium. Social networks showed that others were also shouting “bisharaf”. It means “dishonorable” – and is called upon by morality police, revolutionary guards and mullahs during the current protests.
Some also mentioned Ali Karimi’s name. Along with Ali Daei, the former Bundesliga pro is the country’s most popular football player and has become a national hero for many thanks to his open support of demonstrators. It is not yet clear how the Islamic Football Federation of Iran (FFIRI), which is closely linked to the government, will act.
Mountaineer Rekabi appears to be under pressure
National manager Queiroz wants to concentrate fully on the sport and boldly declares a win for the next match against Wales (Friday). Otherwise, qualifying would likely have been finalized before the politically explosive final group game in the final group game against the USA (November 29).
There are initial assumptions about what will happen on the return. It is conceivable that the players would have to make statements such as “We were so excited and overwhelmed that we forgot the text”.
The ultra-conservative regime did the same for mountaineer Elnaz Rekabi, who left her hijab open at the Asian Championships. After that, the athlete was called under great pressure and because she corrected her expression in front of the state television cameras, she was searched in a short time and she no longer had time to wear a headscarf.
He had to apologize and the authorities threatened to confiscate his family’s belongings, according to BBC Persian.
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