Iran’s 2022 World Cup coach Carlos Queiroz has called on fans to allow his team to be a “simple football” player.
Iran’s World Cup team coach Carlos Queiroz has expressed anger at players being dragged into a crisis in their home country, telling fellow Iranians on the team not to harass or politicize their team. and allow them to focus on their tournament campaign.
Speaking after his team’s 6-2 thrashing of England in their World Cup opener on Monday, Queiroz said his players, who are high-profile at home, had been heavily criticized and even threatened over issues they they had nothing to do with football.
Iran’s “Team Melli,” the national team, has been in the spotlight in the run-up to the World Cup, with many Iranians seeking their public backing for the ongoing protests that have become the most sustained challenges to the legitimacy of Iran’s rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“Those who come to bother the team with issues that are not just soccer opinions are not welcome because our boys are just soccer boys,” Queiroz said at a press conference.
“Let the children play the game. Because this is what they are looking for. They wanted to represent the country, represent the people, like any other team that is here. And all the teams, there are problems at home”.
Some fans have accused the team of siding with Tehran’s crackdown on protesters. Activists say more than 400 people have been killed in the violence so far, including dozens of children, sparked by the death two months ago of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest under the country’s strict Islamic dress code. .
Some Iran fans in Qatar also expressed their support for the protesters in their home countries by wearing T-shirts with the words: “Women, Life, Freedom,” echoing the popular chant of the movement that has sprung up since Amini’s death. .
Team captain Ehsan Hajsafi cautiously broke the team’s silence on the protests on Sunday, saying his team supported and sympathized with its people.
But, in a show of solidarity with the protesters on Monday, the team refused to sing the Iranian national anthem before the game and their two-goal celebrations were silenced, following similar moves by other Iranian athletes.
Boos were also heard throughout the anthem, while some Iranian fans were seen holding signs professing their support for women’s rights.
The decision not to sing the national anthem was not the first time the Iranian team had shown token support for the protesters. At the end of September, the team opted to wear black jackets to cover the country’s colors in the friendly against Senegal.
Portugal’s Queiroz, who led Iran to the 2018 World Cup, said he was proud of his players for the political pressure they faced and urged England and upcoming Group B opponents Wales and the United States to support them. .
“You don’t know what the kids have been experiencing behind the scenes just because they want to play soccer,” he said.
“Of course, we have our opinions and we will express them at the appropriate time. But I love the game and I don’t want players to do something that is not loyal to the game that is about entertainment and joy and pride,” she said.
“They only have one dream, to play for the country, to play for the people and I’m very proud of the way they get up and keep fighting.”