Not a single member of the Iranian national football team sang the national anthem at their first World Cup match with England on Monday in a show of support for the anti-hijab protests in Iran, which have been going on for three months.
At the opener for Group B, held on Monday, the Iranian footballers remained all stiff and silent when their national anthem filled Khalifa International Stadium, with some putting their faces down. Iran’s state-run television cameras quickly turned away from the footballers to the stadium.
After the game, Iranian captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said his team decided to show their support for the protesters by boycotting the national anthem. While Iran netted two goals, there were no ceremonies.
In the last test match against Senegal on September 27, the Iranian national team wore black jumpers with the emblem of the Iranian Football Federation and their national flag covered up, with most of the players refusing to sing.
Anti-government movements were witnessed at the stand, too. Placards were hung, reading “Women, Life, Freedom,” the slogan for Iran’s anti-government protests. In the 22nd minute of the first half, some audience chanted “Mahsa Amini,” the name of a female victim. She was 22.
“Display of activism carries the risk of reprisal, especially for players who must return home to play in Iran’s domestic league,” said the New York Times. Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian athlete who performed without her hijab at the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asian Championships in Seoul last month, was reported to have been put under house arrest and blackmailed to have her property confiscated after returning to Iran.
Sung-Hwi Kang firstname.lastname@example.org