Iran players end silent protest at World Cup amid threats of reprisals | Iran

Iran’s players sang their national anthem before Friday’s World Cup game against Wales, four days after staying silent during it in an attempt to distance themselves from their government.

There was again heavy booing and whistling of the anthem by Iran supporters inside the stadium in Qatar and some fans could be seen crying. Some players more muttered than sang the anthem.

The players’ change of approach comes after it emerged they could face reprisals if they failed to sing the national anthem in their remaining World Cup games. On Tuesday Mehdi Chamran, the chairman of Tehran city council, said: “We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag. Iranian civilisation has a history of several thousand years, this civilisation is as old as the total of European and American civilisations.”

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A conservative MP in Kurdistan called for the national team to be replaced by faithful and revolutionary youth willing to sing their anthem.

The team’s silence before their 6-2 defeat by England was a symbolic show of support for the protest movement that has roiled Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September.

On Thursday Iranian security forces arrested one of the country’s most famous footballers, accusing him of spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic and seeking to undermine the national World Cup team. The arrest of Voria Ghafouri was likely to be seen as a warning to the players not to repeat their protests.

Ghafouri, a former member of the national team who used to be captain of the Tehran club Esteghlal, has been outspoken in his defence of Iranian Kurds, telling the government on social media to stop killing Kurdish people. He has previously been detained for criticising the former Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.

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