DOHA, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Iranian players are free to join protests sweeping their country against women’s rights as they play at the World Cup in Qatar, but must do so abiding by tournament rules , said national team coach Carlos Queiroz. tuesday.
Human rights campaigner HRANA news agency said 344 people had been killed and 15,280 arrested in the past two months of nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. years, detained by the morality police.
Iran has said his death was due to pre-existing conditions and accused its enemies of fomenting unrest to destabilize the country. The protests have turned into a crisis of legitimacy for the clerical establishment, which has been in power for more than four decades.
Iranian 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 they have been heavily criticized on Twitter in recent days for meeting with Iranian leaders ahead of their departure for Doha, where they trained for the first time on Tuesday.
“Players are free to protest as they would if they were from any other country as long as it is in accordance with World Cup regulations and in the spirit of the game,” Queiroz said in a statement. press conference.
“But you can also express yourself on the pitch in football and the players only have one thing on their mind and that is to fight to qualify for the second round,” he said.
World football’s governing body FIFA has opposed players, teams and fans who engage in protests and slogans, but last year adopted a more tolerant stance towards regard to protests, such as when several teams wore t-shirts calling for human rights during protests aimed at The World Cup hosts Qatar.
Queiroz was also asked if he was proud to coach a country that suppresses women and, in a tense retort, he asked the reporter how much he would pay him to answer the question.
The coach said the Iranian players had set their sights on reaching the second round, despite being paired in a tough Group B with England, Wales and the United States. They will start against England at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.
Iran have failed in their last five World Cup final appearances to reach the second round. “They don’t just want to be part of history but also want to make history,” added Queiroz.
“If we bring joy and pleasure to people, we have done our job as footballers and that is the most important issue for me as a national team coach.”
Queiroz, who has managed the last four World Cups, said he believed an out-of-form England could be beaten but also needed to be respected. “There are few teams that can do what they did by coming back in their last game against Germany,” he said.
England recovered from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 with Germany at Wembley in their final Nations League game in September.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris
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