Iran’s players sang their national anthem ahead of Friday’s World Cup match against Wales, four days after remaining silent during the match in a bid to distance themselves from their government.
Heavy cheers and whistles of the national anthem were again heard from Iranian supporters at the stadium in Qatar and some fans were seen crying. Some players muttered more than they sang the national anthem.
The players’ change of approach comes after it emerged they could face reprisals if they failed to sing the national anthem in their remaining World Cup matches. On Tuesday, Tehran City Council Chairman Mehdi Chamran said: “We will never allow anyone to insult our national anthem and our flag. The Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years, this civilization is as old as the total of European and American civilizations.”
A conservative member of parliament in Kurdistan called for the national team to be replaced by loyal and revolutionary youths willing to sing their national anthem.
The team’s silence before their 6-2 defeat to England was a symbolic show of support for the protest movement that has rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September.
On Thursday, Iranian security forces arrested one of the country’s most famous footballers, accusing him of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic and undermining the World Cup national team. Voria Ghafouri’s arrest would likely be seen as a warning to players not to repeat their protests.
Ghafouri, a former national team member and former captain of Tehran’s Esteghlal club, has spoken out in his defense of Iran’s Kurds and told the government on social media to stop killing Kurds. He was previously detained for criticizing former Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.