Iranian players sang their national anthem ahead of Friday’s World Cup game against Wales, four days after remaining silent during it in an attempt to distance themselves from their government.
The Iranian anthem was again booed and whistled by Iranian fans inside the stadium in Qatar and some fans could be seen crying. Some actors whispered more than they sang the anthem.
The change in the players’ approach comes after it emerged they could face retribution if they failed to sing the national anthem in their last World Cup matches. On Tuesday, Mehdi Chamran, the chairman of the Tehran city council, said: “We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and our flag. Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years, this civilization is as old as all European and American civilizations.
A conservative MP from Kurdistan has called for the national team to be replaced by loyal and revolutionary young people ready to sing their anthem.
The team’s silence ahead of their 6-2 loss 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 seeking to undermine the national World Cup team. Voria Ghafouri’s arrest was likely to be seen as a warning to players not to repeat their protests.
Ghafouri, a former national team member who captained club Tehran Esteghlal, was outspoken in his defense of Iranian Kurds, telling the government on social media to stop killing Kurds. He was previously detained for criticizing former Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.