Iran national football team face political threats over anthem silence

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LONDON: Fears that Iranian footballers playing at the World Cup in Qatar could face punishment at home over their refusal to sing their country’s national anthem are growing after a politician said Tehran would “never allow anyone to insult our anthem,” The Guardian reported.
At the start of their opening group match against England on Monday, which resulted in a 6-2 defeat, the Iranian players did not sing along to the anthem.
Mehdi Chamran, the chairperson of Tehran City Council, said on Tuesday: “We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag. Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years; this civilization is as old as the total of European and American civilizations.”
Meanwhile, Kayhan, a pro-regime newspaper, condemned Iranian protesters for supporting their national team’s opponents.
It said: “For weeks foreign media had conducted ruthless and unprecedented psychological-media war against this team.
“This campaign did not spare any effort to create a gap between the people of Iran and the members of the Iranian national football team, as well as producing false dichotomies.
“This political-media movement, mainly Londoners, with the support and coordination of local patriots, from movie and sports celebrities to chain media and Telegram channels, and even reformist political figures, have joined hands to attack the players.”
The newspaper reported that Iran’s head coach, Carlos Queiroz, had questioned the motives of fans who turned against the team.
He reportedly said: “I have to tell those who do not want to support the national team that it is better to stay at home, no one needs them.”
Former Iranian international footballer Ali Latifi said that the players faced a dilemma over whether to show support for the continuing protests in their country or focus only on football.
“When some spectators boo, the team suffers,” he said. “Even though it was not broadcast on the radio, the players hear it and it affects their mood.”

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