Iran World Cup players sing national anthem days after public protest
Iran’s World Cup team decided not to continue its very public protest as its players sung the national anthem before their game against Wales.
On Monday, Iran’s players had refused to sing the anthem before their match against England.
This was interpreted as a show of support for mass anti-government protests in their country since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September. She had been accused of not following Iran’s hijab rules.
There have been subsequent reports the players could later face reprisals from Iran’s authoritarian regime if they again refused to sing the anthem in their remaining games.
Star player Mehdi Taremi had said on Thursday “we are not under any pressure” - but the team sang the anthem before Friday’s game against Wales began.
As fans in the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha jeered and whistled, the players appeared forlorn as the anthem played out, with some seemingly only mouthing the words.
Television cameras then showed one Iran fan bursting into tears.
Another Iran fan was pictured holding a shirt with Amini’s name printed on the back of it with a number 22, after her age.
BBC commentator Steve Wilson remarked: “Singing or not singing that anthem has become a political statement and the pressure that this team is under is immense - and the emotions for those following them, immense too.”
Taremi, who had faced questions about singing the anthem at a press conference on Thursday, said: "I said that I don’t want to talk about political issues but I can give you a very short sentence in response to your question because I respect you.
“No, we are not under any pressure. The fact is that we have come here to play football. Not only us, but all the players who are present in Qatar have come here to play football.
“I cannot change anything, thousands of other people like me cannot change anything.”
Asked if he had a message for the protesters in Iran, Taremi said: “Whatever I say here is not going to have impact anywhere. Whatever was reported I am not going to elaborate, sorry.”