Iranian World Cup squad declines to sing national anthem

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Iran’s World Cup soccer team declined to sing their national anthem before their opening match against England on Monday after many fans back home accused the squad of siding with a violent state crackdown on persistent popular unrest.

Protests demanding the fall of the ruling theocracy have gripped Iran since the death two months ago of young woman Mahsa Amini after her arrest for flouting the strict Islamic dress code.

Dozens of Iranian public figures, athletes and artists have displayed solidarity with the protesters — but not the national soccer team, until Monday’s match when all team members remained silent when the national anthem was played.

Iranian state television did not show the players lined up for the anthem before the match got underway in Qatar, just across the Gulf from their homeland.

The Iranian squad could not avoid being overshadowed by the anti-government unrest that has rattled Iran’s theocracy, while other World Cup teams were squarely focused on their tactics on the pitch. Ahead of the match, no Iranian player had voiced support for the demonstrations by compatriots from all walks of life. REUTERS

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