Iranian fans savor victory, but argue over protests By Reuters


© Reuters. Soccer Soccer – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group B – Wales v Iran – Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar – November 25, 2022 Iran’s players line up during the national anthem before the match REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

By Martin Petty, Maya Gebeily and Charlotte Bruneau

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (Reuters) – Iran’s national soccer team sang the national anthem during its second World Cup match against Wales on Friday, after failing to do so earlier this week in a show of public support for protesters at home.

There was thunderous laughter from Iran’s fans as the anthem was played, the team singing quietly before the team won 2-0, prompting euphoric celebrations outside the stadium as government supporters tried to drown out their opponents’ chants after the game.

Before the match, several fans said security prevented them or their friends from carrying signs of support for the protesters into the stadium. One said he was detained. Another said security forces forced him to remove a T-shirt that read the slogan of the protests, “Women, Life, Freedom.”

At the stadium, a woman holding up a soccer jersey with “Mahsa Amini – 22” written on the back and blood-red tears under her eyes remembered the woman whose death in police custody sparked protests more than two months ago.

Iranian authorities have responded with deadly force to suppress protests calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, one of the boldest calls against Iran’s spiritual rulers since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

After the match, cheerful Iranians danced and cheered.

Several wore T-shirts commemorating Amini, who was jailed for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code, or held banners proclaiming “Women, Life, Freedom.”

Fans waving the official flag of Iran tried to drown them with their shouts.

One of them walked in front of a group of women with WOMEN’S LIFE LIBERTY on their shirts and started chanting at them. He wore a T-shirt with pictures of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2020.

The win sets up a decider against the USA on Tuesday.

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, part of a hardline establishment that denounced the protests as riots fomented by Iran’s enemies, praised the team for “bringing the sweetness of victory to the people of our country.”

Unlike on Monday, when Iranian state television cut off coverage during the anthem, Iranian state media reported that players sang the song on Friday and showed footage of pro-government fans in the stadium.

State television showed people celebrating on the streets of several Iranian cities.

In the run-up to the World Cup, protesters have been encouraged by open demonstrations of support for a number of Iran’s national teams, which have refrained from singing the national anthem.

Before Monday’s opener against England, the players walked in solemn silence as the national anthem played.

The Iranian fans were in good spirits as the game approached and star striker Sardar Azmoun’s speech in support of the protest movement led to huge cheers around the stadium as their players came out of the tunnel for warm-ups. in the starting lineup.

The Melli team, as the soccer team is known, has traditionally been a source of great national pride in Iran, but in the run-up to the World Cup, they have become embroiled in politics as they look forward to whether or not soccer’s showcase event will be used. is a platform to get behind the protesters.

GOOD (NYSE:) MOMENT OF MY LIFE’

A Reuters witness said that before the match, a man wearing a shirt reading “Women, Life, Freedom” was escorted into the stadium by security officers.

Reuters could not immediately confirm why the man was accompanied by three security guards in blue.

A spokesman for the governing body’s governing body referred Reuters to FIFA and Qatar’s list of banned items, but did not say which item he was carrying.

The rules prohibit items that contain “political, offensive or discriminatory messages.”

FIFA’s world governing body’s media contact at the stadium did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the stadium’s media manager was not aware of the developments but would respond later.

Payam Saljoughian, a 36-year-old lawyer based in the United States, said security forces forced her and her father to remove T-shirts that read “Women, Life, Freedom,” but her two sisters and mother were told to do so. “It was the best moment of my life – despite everything,” he told Reuters.

Shayan Khosravani, a 30-year-old Iranian-American fan, told Reuters that he was detained by stadium security 10 minutes before kick-off.

He said that he was detained after being told to remove protest materials, which he did. But he was wearing a “free Iran” shirt.