They did not sing the anthem at the World Cup; here’s what Iran’s players risk

1 year ago

Proud expression, determined gaze and closed mouth. Even before making their World Cup debut against England, Iran’s players took to the stage to remain silent during the national anthem.

A silence that has made a lot of noise, to take sides against the regime of the ayatollahs, in symbiosis with the compatriots who protest against the oppression and brutal violence of the fundamentalist leaders of their country.

A strong answer even for those who had accused many of them of not taking a stand in support of respecting civil rights in the days before the start of “Qatar 2022”. A gesture that could already cost the “Melli team” dearly.

What is happening in Iran after the national soccer team’s players refused to sing the anthem at the World Cup? Iranian pro-government newspapers have played down the “shame” by blaming those who put pressure on the players; i.e. foreign “conspirators” and protesters who have been vocal for weeks, outraged by the death of Mahsa Amini, killed for not wearing the right clothes.

We read in the pages of a well-known tabloid that what happened in England-Iran would be the result of “several weeks of unfair and unprecedented psychological warfare against the team by domestic and foreign traitors.”

The reality, however, is different. Never have the footballers been so united and determined in their desire to give a strong signal, without even celebrating the two goals, thus showing their solidarity with the protesting people, with all due respect to those who they have decided to insult them.

A message of hope for all those who did not expect anything from this and which may represent a thread of faith for the future, giving impetus to actions against the regime.

In fact, athletes play a high-level role in Iranian society. The national football team in particular is considered one of the main symbols of patriotism and love for one’s land.

Suffice it to say that one of the stars of the Queiroz-led side, Sardar Azmoun, is followed by millions on social media, with younger generations looking up to him and his teammates as true role models.

This is the reason why, as mentioned, close to the World Cup there was no lack of criticism towards the team, guilty of not publicly distancing themselves from the violence of the regime. Now everything has changed.

These guys, subjected to considerable pressure, even intimidation, seem to have decided which side to take, that silence during the anthem, which went around the world.

But how will the Iranian leadership now react to what happened? What are the concrete risks for the national team players who have not made any statement on this topic after the match?

Before the World Cup, there was talk about the possibility of exemplary punishments in case of similar situations, starting with non-payment by the Federation at the end of the tournament.

This may be the “easiest” sanction, given that some Iranian tabloids also refer to the possibility of suspension or even the end of their career in the national team.

On the other hand, it seems that lesser-known players have already been arrested, or even imprisoned, after demonstrations of solidarity with the anti-regime protests.

Surely for the moment everything should remain as it is, not least because an immediate drastic halt is hardly conceivable, with two group stage matches still to be played, including the never-important one against the USA.

Immediate sensational sanctions would be a media boomerang for the regime, which already has all eyes on the world (the magic of the World Cup).

The reason why Tehran can still wait for the end of the World Cup to take measures that could be particularly severe for those players, about half, who play in their homeland, unlike for example “stars” like Mehdi Taremi (FC Porto) , Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen) or Saman Ghoddos (Brentford FC).

The latter, who have already moved abroad, as a result of what happened, may be forced not to return to their homeland. Undoubtedly, the greatest concern is for the families, a situation that further underscores the courage of their actions.