Iranian fans enjoy the victory, but the protests cause a fight

AL RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 25 (Reuters) – Iran’s national soccer team sang its national anthem during its second World Cup match against Wales on Friday, having stayed away from its opener earlier this week in apparent support of protesters. back home.

Loud jeers could be heard from Iranian supporters as the anthem played, with the team singing softly ahead of the 2-0 victory, sparking euphoric celebrations outside the stadium where government supporters tried to drown out the chants of opponents after the match.

Before the game, several fans said security prevented them or friends from taking symbols of support for the protesters into the stadium. One said he was detained. Another said that security forces forced him to take off a T-shirt that read “Women, Life, Freedom” – the slogan of the protests.

At the stadium, a woman held up a soccer jersey with the words “Mahsa Amini – 22” on the back and blood-red tears painted under her eyes – reminiscent of the woman whose death in police custody sparked protests more than two months ago.

Iranian authorities have responded with lethal force to quell protests calling for the fall of the Islamic Republic, one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s spiritual rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the match, jubilant Iranians danced and cheered as they streamed out of the ground.

Several wore T-shirts commemorating Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code, or held placards reading “Women, Life, Freedom.”

Fans waving the official Iranian flag tried to drown them out with their own chants.

One of them stepped in front of a group of women with WOMEN’S LIFE FREEDOM on their shirts and started chanting over them. He was wearing a T-shirt printed with an image of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general who was killed in a 2020 US drone strike.

The win sets up a decider against the United States on Tuesday.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who is part of the hardline establishment that has condemned the protests as riots incited by Iran’s enemies, praised the team for “bringing the sweetness of victory to the people of our country.”

Unlike on Monday, when Iranian state television cut off broadcasts while the national anthem was playing, Iranian state media reported that the players were singing on Friday and showed footage of pro-government fans in the stadium.

State television showed people celebrating in the streets of several cities across Iran.

Ahead of the World Cup, protesters were heartened by overt displays of support from a number of Iran’s national teams, which refrained from singing the national anthem.

On Monday, ahead of their opening game against England, the players were solemn and silent as the national anthem was played.

Iran’s fans were in high spirits as the match approached, as their players emerged from the tunnel for warm-ups, cheers erupted around the stadium as star striker Sardar Azmoun was announced, speaking out in support of the protest movement. in the basic set.

Team Melli, as the soccer team is known, has traditionally been a great source of national pride in Iran, but in the run-up to the World Cup, it has become involved in politics, expecting to see if they will use the soccer parade as a platform to get behind the protesters.

‘THE BEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE’

Before the game, a man wearing a jersey with the words “Women, Life, Freedom” was escorted into the stadium by security officers, a Reuters witness said.

Reuters could not immediately confirm why the man was accompanied by three security officers in blue.

A spokesman for the top organizing committee referred Reuters to FIFA and Qatar’s list of banned items, but did not say which banned item he was carrying.

The rules prohibit items with “political, offensive or discriminatory messages”.

The stadium’s media contact for world governing body FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the stadium’s media manager was unaware of the incidents but responded later.

Payam Saljoughian, 36, a US-based lawyer, said security forces made him and his father take off their “Women, Life, Freedom” shirts, but his two siblings and mother were not told to take off theirs. “It was the best moment of my life – despite everything,” he told Reuters.

Iranian-American fan Shayan Khosravani, 30, told Reuters he was detained by stadium security 10 minutes before kick-off.

He said he was detained after being told to put down protest materials, which he did. But he was wearing a “Free Iran” shirt.

More coverage from the Dubai newsroom; Written by Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra, Gareth Jones, William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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