World Cup 2022: Iranians do not sing anthem – state television interrupts transmission

Da they stood, lined up and arm in arm at Al-Rajjan’s Chalifa International Stadium, and decided to make a remarkable gesture ahead of what might be the greatest game of their lives. As the first strains of their national anthem swept the arena, Iran’s footballers remained silent. None of the eleven national players of the Islamic Republic standing on the lawn sang, instead serious looks. Weeping women in headscarves could be seen in the stands. A loud silence, a silent statement.

The Iranian state broadcaster interrupted the live broadcast at the anthem. The players could now face consequences. There had been speculation in Iran that they might be banned if they remained silent at the anthem.

Only a few hours before the Iranians’ first group game at this World Cup against England, the sixth death sentence since the beginning of the nationwide demonstrations against the government and the Islamic system of rule had been imposed in their home country. The Revolutionary Court in Tehran found an accused demonstrator guilty. The trigger for the most serious protests in decades, which are repeatedly violently suppressed, was the death of the 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in police custody in mid-September. Amini had previously been arrested for violating Islamic dress codes.

A woman in the audience publicly displays her protest

Credit: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

The protests at home accompany the Iranian team at the World Cup. “They ask for the national anthem, that’s something that also has to be decided in the team. Apparently everyone is talking about it. But honestly, we don’t make a big deal out of it because we think and talk about football,” Alireza Jahanbakhsh said at a press conference ahead of the England game. The fact that the captain and his team remained silent during the anthem will have been closely observed by both the demonstrators and the regime.

“When it comes to homosexuality, the openness of the Qataris is very limited”

“In terms of mood, it’s not what other world championships have offered,” says WELT reporter Steffen Schwarzkopf after the opening game in Doha. Nevertheless, the host is polite. When it comes to homosexuality, however, friendliness is quickly over.

A delicate situation for the team, which, with a few exceptions, has shown solidarity with the demonstrators. “We also have other responsibilities towards Iranian society, but here our focus is on football,” said striker Mehdi Taremi, who had previously expressed his support for the protests. “I’m ashamed when I see the pictures of the last few days,” Taremi recently wrote on his Instagram profile. Violence is unacceptable and will definitely not solve the country’s problems.

Infantino wants to appease

Gianni Infantino, on the other hand, remained firm in his memorable opening speech on Saturday that the devastating situation for women and the oppression of minorities in Iran would not affect sport at the finals in Qatar. “It’s not two regimes, two ideologies that are playing against each other, but two teams,” said the FIFA President before the England game. Previously, some associations had called for the Iranian selection to be excluded from the World Cup.

WCup Qatar Soccer

Gianni Infantino doesn’t believe the protests in Iran played a role in the World Cup

Credit: AP/Abbie Parr

It was “positive and completely natural that the two can play against each other in a football tournament,” explained Infantino and asked back: “Do we have to exclude everyone because a few people are bad?” In England there would certainly be a ” very small percentage of bad people,” Infantino told an English journalist. However, the distraction strategy typical of him does not work for everyone.

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Ali Daei had declined an invitation from the world association to Qatar a few days before the start of the tournament. “In these days when most of us are not doing well, I have declined the official invitation from Fifa and the Qatar Football Federation to take my wife and daughters to the World Cup,” wrote the 53-year-old Iranian football leader Legend on Instagram. “I want to be with you in my country and offer my condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones these days. Hoping for good times for Iran and Iranians.”

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The Qatari police officers have received special instructions for the World Cup

Daei and the national team are not the only Iranian athletes to openly oppose the regime. At the end of October, Elnas Rekabi competed in a climbing championship in South Korea without the headscarf that is mandatory for Iranian women. After her return to Iran, Rekabi disappeared for a few days, and rumors of strict house arrest surfaced. The athlete later apologized for the “unintentional headscarf error”; However, observers suspected that Rekabi had been forced to do so by the Ministry of Sport. At the obligatory meeting with Minister of Sport Hamid Sajadi, she again did not wear a traditional headscarf, just a sports cap. Since then, Rekabi has enjoyed a kind of heroic status among the protesters.

Green boss encourages Iranian footballers

Before the start of the World Cup, Omid Nouripour, party leader of the Greens, assumed that the Iranian national team could use their opening game against England to show solidarity with the demonstrators in their home country.

Omid Nouripour

Green politician Omid Nouripour, born in Tehran, encourages Iran’s soccer players to protest

Source: dpa/Soeren Stache

“Except for two players, everyone has been critical of the regime so far, nobody sings along with the national anthem or is happy after goals,” said the German politician, who was born in Iran, in an interview with “Kicker”. The tournament offers a stage on which “this team can make a difference and draw a lot of attention to the plight of the people and the protests” – without the government in Tehran being able to do much about it.

“In Iran, football is a distraction from a religion that is imposed in all facets by the state,” Nouripour explained. “People are also protesting against the international isolation into which the regime has led the country for decades. The national team is always a window to the outside world.” This window was thrown wide open on Monday before the World Cup match against England.

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