Members of Iran's national football team are free to join the protests during their participation in the World Cup in Qatar, as long as they do so within the rules of the tournament, team coach Carlos Queiroz has said.
“The players are free to protest as they would if they were from any other country as long as it conforms with the World Cup regulations and is in the spirit of the game,” Queiroz told a news conference in Qatar on November 15.
“But you can also express yourself on the field in the game of football and the players have only one thing on their mind and that is to fight to qualify for the second round,” he added.
Iran has been swept by protests against the clerical regime since a 22-year-old woman died in the custody of morality police two months ago. More than 340 people have been killed, including 43 children, in a brutal crackdown by security forces, according to one human rights organization. Thousands of others have been arrested.
Asked whether he was proud to coach a country that repressed women, Queiroz in turn asked the reporter how much he would pay him to answer the question.
Iranian football star Yahya Golmohammdi criticized the country's football national team after the players held a controversial meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi on November 15 before heading to Qatar.
Football is deeply politicized in Iran, and political interference in sports has been the norm soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Top athletes are expected to follow the regime’s line on all matters, including those unrelated to sport, or at the very least remain silent.
Several athletes in several sports have refused to celebrate their victories or sing the national anthem during competitions since nationwide erupted in September.