Iran’s players sang their national anthem ahead of Friday’s World Cup match against Wales, after four days of silence during which they tried to distance themselves from their government.
Iran fans inside the stadium in Qatar were once again booed and whistled, with some fans seen crying. Some players muttered more than they sang the national anthem.
The change of approach to the players comes after it emerged that they could face retaliation if they failed to sing the national anthem in their remaining World Cup matches. Mehdi Chamran, head of the Tehran City Council, said on Tuesday: “We will not allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag. Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years, this civilization is as old as the sum of European and American civilizations.”
A conservative deputy in Kurdistan has called for replacing the national team with believing and revolutionary youth who want to sing their anthem.
The team’s silence ahead of their 6-2 defeat by England was a symbolic show of support for the protest movement that has gripped Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini in police custody in September.
On Thursday, Iranian security forces arrested one of the most famous soccer players in the country, accusing him of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic and seeking to undermine the World Cup team. The arrest of Furiya Ghafouri was likely seen as a warning to the players against repeating their protests.
Ghafouri, a former member of the national team who was once captain of the Esteghlal club in Tehran, has been outspoken in his defense of Iranian Kurds, calling on the government on social media to stop killing Kurds. He was previously arrested for criticizing former Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.