Iran’s national football team sang while playing their national anthem in their second World Cup against Wales on Friday, after refraining from doing so in their opening game earlier this week, apparently in support of protesters at home.
Loud boos were heard from Iranian fans as the anthem played, with the team singing softly before winning 2-0, sparking euphoric celebrations outside the stadium where government supporters tried to drown out the chants of his opponents after the game.
Ahead of the match, several fans said security prevented them or their friends from bringing symbols of support to protesters in the stadium. One of them said he was detained. Another said security forces made him remove a t-shirt that read “Women, Life, Freedom” – a slogan of the protests.
In the stadium, a woman held up a football shirt with ‘Mahsa Amini – 22’ printed on the back and blood-red tears painted under her eyes – commemorating the woman whose death in police custody sparked the protests more than two months.
Iranian authorities have responded with lethal force to quell protests calling for the fall of the Islamic Republic, one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s religious leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
After the match, jubilant Iranians danced and cheered as they emerged from the ground.
A few wore T-shirts commemorating Amini, who was arrested for allegedly flouting Iran’s strict dress codes, or held banners declaring ‘Women, Life, Freedom’
Fans waving the official Iranian flag tried to cover them with chants.
One stood in front of a group of women with ‘WOMEN LIFE FREEDOM‘ on their shirts and started singing along. He wore a T-shirt with a photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general killed by a US drone strike in 2020.
This victory sets up a decisive game against the United States on Tuesday.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, part of the hardline establishment that has condemned 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 Monday, when Iranian state television cut the broadcast while the anthem was playing, Iranian state media reported that the players sang on Friday and showed footage of pro-government supporters in the stadium.
State television showed people celebrating in the streets of several cities in Iran
Ahead of the World Cup, protesters had taken heart from apparent shows of support from a number of Iran’s national teams which refrained from singing the national anthem.
On Monday, ahead of their opening game against England, the players had been solemn and silent as the anthem was played.
Iranian fans were in good spirits as the game approached, with big cheers around the stadium as their players emerged from the tunnel for warm-ups, emitting a roar as star striker Sardar Azmoun, who has spoken in support of the protest movement, was announced in the starting lineup.
Team Melli, as the soccer team is known, have traditionally been a huge source of national pride in Iran, but they have found themselves caught up in politics in the World Cup run-up, with anticipation over whether they would use soccer’s showpiece event as a platform to get behind the protesters