Doha: Before a ball was even kicked in Iran’s World Cup opener against England, Iran’s players made a powerful statement.
In what seemed to be a show of solidarity with those protesting back home, the players stood silent as the Iranian national anthem played out around the Khalifa International Stadium before kickoff. The match ended in a 6-2 victory for England.
Protests, chaos and violence have rocked Iran in recent months and threatened the very nature of the country’s regime, which has been in power for more than 40 years.
The protests, referred to by experts as the most significant since the establishment of clerical rule following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police, allegedly for not abiding by the country’s conservative dress code. Iranian security forces have unleashed a violent response.
Before the tournament began, Iran’s manager Carlos Queiroz said players would be allowed to protest while they competed in Qatar.
The silent show of respect was met with a loud reaction from the Iranian fans, many of whom cheered throughout. It’s unclear whether it was in support of the players.