The Iranian national team respected the dividing line between express support for protesters at home and risk serious repercussions from the regime for doing so. They have been criticized for not speaking out more about the regime’s violent crackdown on dissent on the world stage, the Associated Press reported. Some also called out Ezatolahi for failing to mention that Samak had been killed by security forces.
The team was also criticized early on for meeting and greeting President Ebrahim Raisi before traveling to Qatar for the World Cup. During the competition, however, the players appeared to cautiously express their solidarity with the protesters who stayed at home.
Ahead of his first game, team captain Ehsan Hajsafi acknowledged the oppression of Iranians at home, saying “the conditions in our country are not good”.
“We are here, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be their voice or that we shouldn’t respect them,” he said.
The teammates also remained silent as Iran’s national anthem played in their first game against England, in what many interpreted as a show of support for the protesters.
They were later threatened by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and told their families would face ‘violence and torture’ if they participated in a political protest against the government, CNN reportedciting an anonymous source.
The team joined in singing the national anthem in their other two matches, against Wales and then the United States.