Iran’s players did not sing their national anthem before their opening game of the World Cup in Qatar against England on Monday.
Ahead of the game, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said the team would decide “collectively” whether or not to refuse to sing the anthem in support of anti-government protesters in Iran.
The 11 Iranian players stood impassively and grim-faced as their anthem rang out around the Khalifa International Stadium. While there were some Iranian fans in tears in the stands, others appeared to be booing and whistling their own anthem.
Some players had made their feelings known before the start of the World Cup campaign, backing the protesters at home. Bayer Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmoun posted on Instagram: ‘At worst I’ll be dismissed from the national team. No problem. I’d sacrifice that for one hair on the heads of Iranian women.’ ‘This story will not be deleted. They can do whatever they want. Shame on you for killing so easily; long live Iranian women.’ Ehsan Hajsafi, the AEK Athens defender who has 121 caps and captains Iran, said at a press conference in Qatar: ‘They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathise with them regarding the conditions.’
Iran has been rocked by two months of nationwide protests since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16. Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.
Some Iranian athletes have chosen not to sing the national anthem or celebrate their victories in support of the protesters.