World Cup 2022: Iran’s turbulent build-up amid violent anti-government protests

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Iranians protested against the country's government in front of the stadium where the match between Iran and Senegal was held in Vienna.
England’s first opponent in the World Cup is Iran
Receiving country: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily televisionFull coverage details

At the end of September, Iran will play a friendly match against African champions Senegal in Vienna, Austria. When the referee blows the final whistle for a 1-1 draw, it’s a good result, but the mood is far from celebratory.

Neither the players nor the coaching staff seem happy. Extraterrestrial Iranian fans certainly don’t.

Local security personnel hired by the Iranian authorities prevented them from entering the stadium, and they were able to make their voices heard through megaphones and loudspeakers set up outside. In fact, they were so loud that Iran’s state television broadcast the match on mute.

Since mid-September, life in Iran has been dominated by a wave of anti-government protests, becoming the most serious challenge to the country’s Islamic republic in a decade.

The protests were sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by Iran’s morality police for violating strict hijab rules.

Outside the ground they shouted, “Say the name: Mahsa Amini.”

The Iranian government does not want people to hear this, especially during the World Cup. It remains to be seen how fans or players will react to Monday’s opener against England in Qatar – but everyone will be watching.

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Mahsa Amini was a young Kurdish woman from the city of Saqqez in northwestern Iran. He was in a coma for three days and died in a hospital in Tehran on September 16.

When she visited the capital with her family, she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for violating a law that requires women to cover their hair with a hijab and loose clothing.

The officers reportedly beat Ami in the head with a baton and slammed her head into one of their cars. Authorities denied he had been mistreated and said he suffered “sudden cardiac arrest.” His family said he was in good health.

Ami’s death sparked outrage. When his funeral was held in Sakkez, women took off their hijabs and shouted against the government. Videos of the incident went viral on social media, and the reaction quickly spread across the country. Sports ground.

In October, mountaineer Elnaz Rekabi took part in the Asian Championships in South Korea without wearing a hijab. Thousands of people gathered at the airport to welcome him back.

Before flying home, she wrote on Instagram that she “inadvertently” went to the competition without covering her hair. Many felt that the language used in his statement was written under duress.

But football, as the country’s most popular sport, provides the biggest platform for those looking to rally support for the protests. And the big figures got mixed up.

Former Iranian football player Ali Karimi, who spent two seasons in “Bayern” in 2005-2007, became the leader of the opposition movement. Iran’s record striker and country legend Ali Dai also showed his support.

Ahead of the September 27 match against Senegal, some Iranian players posted social media messages supporting the protest. The team’s 27-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker and perhaps their star player, Sardar Azmoun, continued to show his support on Instagram – one of the few social media networks allowed in Iran.

For several months, players have refused to celebrate goals scored in the Iranian league. After the ball crosses the line, the scorer usually lowers his arms and this is probably a message intended to alert those watching in the country to what is happening. Human Rights Watch estimates that 15,800 people have been arrested and 341 killed in the protests. It also reported that 39 security personnel were killed.

State TV channels simply cut out the team that scored the goal and instead showed the players from the team that scored the goal.

The players of Esteghlal FC, one of Iran’s two most followed clubs, decided not to celebrate winning the Super Cup two weeks ago. They told the organizers that they would only attend the post-game celebration without fireworks and music. The state television also cut those pictures.

Since the beginning of the demonstrations, all games of the Iranian league have been played behind closed doors. Many believe this is because Iranian authorities believe the fans could pose a security threat.

Iranian beach soccer player Saeed Piramoun pretends to get a haircut
Piramun’s movement mirrored that of women who cut their hair in public protests

At the Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup in Dubai in early November, Iran’s Saeed Piramoun mimicked a haircut after scoring a goal – a gesture that has become symbolic of the protests, which have seen some women cutting their hair in public. He and his teammates beat Brazil in the final – and once again, there were no celebrations.

Iran’s basketball, beach soccer, volleyball and water polo teams have decided not to sing the national anthem in recent matches.

But the men’s national soccer team is undoubtedly the most watched. In their final match before the World Cup – a friendly against Nicaragua played behind closed doors in Tehran – most players refused to sing the national anthem, except for two players who had previously openly supported the regime.

All this gives Iran and its football fans a special boost to the World Cup. What if Iran’s players refuse to sing the national anthem again or stage some kind of protest against the cameras in Qatar? What will they do if they score?

The draw itself is amazing.

Amidst all the turmoil and turmoil at home, Iran faces the United States, England and Wales – countries that the Iranian government considers to be among its main enemies.

Meeting the USA again will especially remind Iran of the immense national pride they felt after winning 2-1 in the group stage of the 1998 World Cup in France – their first win at the tournament.

How do Iranian fans feel about such a result in Qatar? Many feel torn. They don’t know if supporting the team, risking their lives, means betraying the protestors back home.


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