Iran players remain silent during national anthem at World Cup
Iran's players remained stone-faced as the national anthem played ahead of their opening World Cup match against England on Monday.
Why it matters: The decision to remain silent during the anthem came a day after the team captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, spoke in solidarity with the protests in Iran, which began two months ago after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody after being arrested by morality police for "improper hijab."
- Asked about the protesters in a press conference on Sunday, Hajsafi said, "They should know that we sympathize with them," adding: "I hope the situation changes as the people wish and that everyone will be happy."
- Some fans in the stadium could be heard booing the anthem, while a few held signs or wore shirts with the protesters' rallying cry, "Woman, Life, Freedom."
The team wore black jackets over their jerseys during the anthem ahead of a match in September in an apparent sign of dissent, but the players were reportedly pressured not to speak out ahead of the tournament.
- Iranian authorities have criticized and in some cases even arrested celebrities who have backed the protests.
- The team drew the ire of some Iranian activists by attending a farewell ceremony in Tehran alongside President Ebrahim Raisi.
Several Iranian players have declined to answer questions about the protests and one, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, accused the press of trying to "destabilize" the team with such questions.
- Jahanbakhsh also said the team would decide collectively whether to sing the anthem, adding: "Obviously, everybody’s talking about [it]." The current anthem was chosen in 1990 and is seen by some as a symbol of the regime.
- The team did sing the anthem during previous tournaments, including the 2018 World Cup.
The latest: Iran lost to England 6-2 on Monday. The team will play Wales on Friday and the U.S. next Tuesday, with the top two out of those four teams advancing to the knockout rounds.