The national team supports the anti-government protests taking place after the death of Mahsa Amini.
In a high-profile act of solidarity with protesters in Iran, the men’s national football team decided not to sing the national anthem during the opening World Cup match against England.
The unrest in Iran began in September when a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died while in the custody of the vice squad. Since then, protests have spread across the country, challenging the government’s authority even as the security forces crack down. Hundreds of people have died in the violence.
The decision not to sing the national anthem is not the first time the Iranian team has shown support for the demonstrators. In late September, the team opted to wear black jackets to cover up the country’s colors during their friendly against Senegal.
Iran’s national football team is wearing all black to cover up their country’s colors in protest over the death of Mahsa Amini. pic.twitter.com/eicXK2pcJU
— Chris Walker (@WalkerATX) September 27, 2022
Before flying to Doha for the World Cup, the team met with President Ebrahim Raisi. The meeting was not well received by protesters and banners belonging to the team were burned on the eve of the tournament.
Iran’s beach soccer, water polo and basketball teams also recently refused to sing the national anthem. At a press conference on Wednesday, Iran’s football team captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh declined to confirm whether his team would sing the national anthem.
“That’s something that also needs to be decided within the team, which we already talked about and of course everyone is talking about,” he said.
Ahead of Monday’s game, what Iran fans in Qatar also signaled support for the protesters at home. They wore T-shirts that read “Women, Life, Freedom,” the popular chant of the movement that has sprung up since Amini’s death.
The football team’s decision to remain silent during the national anthem on the sport’s biggest stage is the boldest move yet from the country’s athletic stars. It is unclear whether players will be affected.
On Sunday, defender Ehsan Hajsafi became the first Iranian player at the World Cup to speak out publicly in support of the protests.
“They need to know that we stand behind them and that we support and sympathize with them regarding the circumstances,” he said.
England also made a strong political gesture before kick-off by getting on the knee in protest against racism and inequality. Although they didn’t bend their knees in their September friendlies, they have decided to do so ahead of every match they will play at the World Cup.
“We think it’s a strong statement to go around the world to show young people in particular that inclusiveness is very important,” said England manager Gareth Southgate on Sunday.