AL RAYYAN, the Qatar-Iran national football team sang during a performance of their national anthem in their second World Cup match against Wales on Friday and refrained from doing so in their opener earlier this week in apparent support to the protesters at home.
Loud boos were heard from Iranian supporters as the anthem played, and the team sang quietly as it played.
Iranian authorities have responded with deadly force to suppress protests that have marked one of the boldest challenges to their clerical rulers since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Inside the stadium before the game, several supporters had shown their support for the protests.
A woman with dark red tears stained her eyes held aloft a soccer jersey with “Mahsa Amini – 22” printed on the back, a reference to the 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman whose death was in the custody of the moral police two months. ago ignited protests across the country, a Reuters photo showed.
A man standing next to her held a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “MUJER, VIDA, LIBERTAD”, one of the main chants of the protests.
Ahead of the World Cup, protesters were fired up by apparent shows of support from various Iran national teams that refrained from singing the national anthem, such as the basketball team.
Team Melli, as the soccer team is known, have traditionally been a great source of national pride in Iran, but they found themselves caught up in politics in the run-up to the World Cup, with the expectation of whether they would wear the soccer’s main event as a platform to get behind the protesters.
When asked about the unrest at home on Thursday, Iran striker Mehdi Taremi said they were in Qatar to play soccer. “We’re not under pressure,” he added after the players refused to sing the national anthem in their World Cup opener against England.
Before traveling to Doha, the team met with hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Photos of the players with Raisi, one of them bowing in front of him, went viral, sparking protests on social media.
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