Iran’s defeat in the Qatar World Cup sparked unrest and protests at home
Iranians took to the streets of Tehran at night to boo their FIFA World Cup team after their resounding defeat by England.
Residents gathered in different neighborhoods of the capital to sound their car horns and express their anger at the players and the Iranian authorities, according to videos on social media.
Monday’s loss overshadowed the political stance the team took before the game when they refused to sing their national anthem in support of weeks of protests in Iran. The only official reaction to the match so far came from Ali Bahaduri, a spokesperson for the Iranian government, who wrote in a tweet: “We love the Iranian national team under any circumstances.”
The team, known as Team Milli, has come under fire for remaining silent about protests over Mohsa Amini, a young woman who died in police custody in Tehran in September. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had warned athletes not to “disrespect” the country.
Iran’s main hardline newspaper, Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief Khamenei agrees, blamed the players for “not being excited enough” to sing the national anthem. Its front-page headline on Tuesday read “Iran 2 – England, Israel, Saudi Arabia and all traitors inside and out, 6”.
During the match, fans could sometimes be heard chanting “Shameless! Shameless!” Farsi for players. Others waved large banners with the protest reading “Woman, Life, Freedom”.
The team’s goalkeeper, Alireza Beiranvand, was also criticized after he was shown bowing to President Ebrahim Raisi in a meeting on November 14. According to state media, Al-Riyadi told the hardline cleric that the team wanted to make him happy.
Several unverified videos posted to Twitter from Tehran showed people honking their horns in celebration of the team’s defeat.
A video clip from the northwestern city of Zanjan showed a crowd of people dancing to music, and another clip showed a couple on a motorbike driving through the streets of Tehran waving the British Union flag.
Bloomberg cannot verify any of the videos.
Internet access in Tehran was severely restricted immediately after the match. Internet watchdog NetBlocks has confirmed “significant disruption” to online services in Iran, saying that access to the web has been cut off for many users.
The Melli team, usually a source of pride and unity for Iranians, has been caught between officials who want them to show loyalty to the country’s embattled Islamic regime and the team’s young fans who have urged footballers to support the protests.
Iran’s next match is scheduled for November 25 and will be against Wales.
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