Saman Ghoddos, a member of Iran’s national football team, says there is an obligation to use the upcoming World Cup in Qatar as a platform to demand change in the protest-stricken country.
“I don't want to mix politics with football, but football is coming to the side right now because people are losing their lives fighting for freedom," Ghoddos told the British newspaper Daily Mirror on November 16.
“Clearly a change needs to come, and it's already been going on for so long. We all want to change.”
Ghoddos plays for Britain’s Brentford FC. He is the Premier League ’s only Iranian.
The Iranian national team have arrived in Qatar despite calls for FIFA to boot Iran out of World Cup.
The tournament comes as Iranians have been taking to the streets across the country for two months to voice anger against the Islamic Republic's clerical leadership.
A brutal crackdown by security forces on the protest movement has killed more than 340 people, including 43 children, according to one human rights organization. Thousands of others have been arrested.
“If you think it’s the right thing to do, I think you should [speak out] because you’re a famous athlete. If you can put a light on what’s going on you should do it – with pressure or without pressure because it’s the right thing to do," Ghoddos said.
“It’s a change that is very easy. What the people want is nothing special, it’s just freedom. I don’t want to say ‘Yeah, go fight for it’ because I don’t think violence is the right way. But something has to change, and this has been going on for too long."
His comments came one day after the Iranian team’s coach Carlos Queiroz told a news conference in Qatar that players are “free to protest” during their participation in the World Cup, “as long as it conforms with the World Cup regulations and is in the spirit of the game.”