Iran's World Cup players 'can make own choice to protest' against regime - as uncertainty remains over national anthem

A senior Iranian footballer has said it is up to individual players whether they want to take a stand and protest against the Iranian regime during the World Cup in Qatar.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of a team training session, Alireza Jahanbakhsh admitted that the team had discussed together whether they should sing the national anthem, but didn't reveal what decision they've come to.

"We are here to play football and that's the main thing everybody is focused on," he said.

"Celebrations are something very personal. Every single player has a different celebration.

"And you ask about our national anthem, that's something also that's decided in the team which we already talked about.

"Everybody has already talked about. We will never make a big deal out of it to be honest because everyone is only thinking and talking about football to be honest…"

Jahanbakhsh used to play football in England, for Brighton. Speaking in English, the attacking midfielder said he hopes the Iran side can help bring Iranians together.

"We have been through a lot of difficulties, and listen throughout the year it's been ups and downs in every way we can talk about.

"But in the end of the day, when football comes together, we can make joy and we can make happiness for the people.

"We are four days away from playing one of the biggest games of our lives, and every single person who is involved in Team Melli (Iran), all of us we are focused on the game."

Iran are in a group with England and Wales and play their opening game against the Three Lions on Monday.

Protests in support of women's rights and cultural freedoms are ongoing in Iran. Hundreds have reportedly been killed in the uprising and more than 15,000 arrested.

The demonstrations began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran's morality police for not wearing her hijab head covering correctly.

In recent days, five people have been sentenced to death for their role in the protests as the regime tries to crack down on the uprisings.

Two former Iranian footballer stars, Ali Daei and Javad Nekounam, have refused to attend the World Cup in solidarity with protesters.

In warm-up matches before the World Cup, some Iranian players covered up the Iranian flag on their shirts in protest at the regime.

The side's Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, told Sky News this week that "everybody has the right to express themselves" and cited Premier League players taking the knee to demonstrate against racism.