Iran captain ‘supports’ anti-government protests ahead of match against England

© Ebrahim Noroozi, AP

Iranian captain Ehsan Hajsafi said his team sympathised with anti-government protests at home and his team should be a voice for the oppressed at a press conference in Qatar a day ahead of the country's first World Cup match against England.

Hajsafi, an experienced defender began a press conference on the eve of Iran's World Cup opener against England by extending his sympathies to the loved ones of victims of the regime's deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Unprompted, the 32-year-old defender opened the press conference with a remark on anti-government protesters in Iran. "They should know that we sympathise with them," he said, before adding, "conditions at home are not good".

More than two months of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in custody, have created one of the boldest challenges to the Islamist regime since the 1979 revolution.

Iran's national team has been in the spotlight in the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar, with anticipation over whether players will use football's showpiece event as a platform to show solidarity with the protest movement.

"We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy," said Hajsafi. "We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we should not respect them."

The wave of unrest erupted in September after Amini died in custody of the morality police for wearing clothes deemed "inappropriate". Iran's government blames foreign enemies for the crisis.


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