Controversy Abounds Over Iran’s Football Team At World Cup

The presence of Iran’s national football team at the Qatar World Cup has sparked controversy as the country is rocked by anti-government protests and many expect the athletes to support the uprising.

The Iranian team – dubbed Team Melli – met with President Ebrahim Raisi hours before leaving for Doha, which annoyed many Iranians who hadn’t expected the players to be so cheerful about the current uprising across the country. They have been heavily criticized on Twitter since the meeting.

During Tuesday’s nationwide protests, people also set fire to a national team government banner.

Over the past few days, legendary Iranian striker Ali Daei and outspoken star Ali Karimi, who has been charged in absentia for supporting proteststhey said invitations rejected by Qatar to watch World Cup matches.

Refusing the invitation, Ali Karimi told President Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in a letter published on Tuesday that “As you know, the people of Iran are currently going through a very difficult time. The international media largely ignores our struggles. At the moment there are more important issues for me than football and I want to be with my people and be their voice.”

At a press conference earlier on Tuesday, national team coach Carlos Queiroz claimed players are free to join the protests while they play at the World Cup in Qatar, but must do so. in accordance with the rules of the tournament.

“You express yourself in football according to these principles and values. Everyone has the right to express themselves,” he said.

Speaking to a reporter who asked about the current situation in Iran, Queiroz said, “You are used to kneeling in games and some people are okay with it, some people are not. okay with that, and in Iran it’s exactly the same, but it’s out of the question to think that the Iranian national team suffers from problems like this, the players have only one thing in mind, it’s to fight for that dream of being in the second round. The Iranian national team has failed in its previous five World Cup appearances to reach the second round.

Carlos Queiroz, coach of the Melli team

Queiroz was asked if he was proud to coach a country that suppresses women. In a terse reply, the coach asked the reporter how much he would pay him to answer the question, before adding that the reporter should first think about the issue of immigration to the UK.

The Iranian government is extremely concerned about protests by fans or even players during matches and wants to make sure that people will not see any protests on satellite television. The state broadcaster can still cut during live matches.

It is most likely for this reason that the Qatari government refused accreditation to journalists from Iran International to travel there to cover the World Cup.

Although FIFA issued identity cards to our correspondents, the Qatari Ministry of Interior refused accreditation.

Last month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed concern about possible problems that could arise during the FIFA World Cup, tacitly referring to people chanting slogans against the Islamic Republic at matches or to players making statements on the situation in Iran. Earlier in November, he instructed the Foreign Ministry to contact Qatari officials regarding the matter to find ways “to foresee and prevent possible problems”.

Team Melli players hid their national team badges when they played two international warm-up matches in September, which was interpreted as a sign of support for the protests, but other national teams and athletes have been more vocal and direct in their support for the protests. .

In less than a month, the pace of athletes supporting the protests has picked up as Iran’s soccer, beach soccer, water polo, basketball and sitting volleyball teams refused to sing along with the anthem, which is usual in almost all international competitions. Now that the biggest sporting event is looming on the horizon, the regime is using everything it can to drown out the voices of dissent. Authorities have issued serious threats against athletes and other celebrities to prevent them from public demonstrations of solidarity with the demonstrators but in vain.

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