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France24: Iran national football team captain backs anti-government protests

21-11-2022 |

Iranian captain Ehsan Hajsafi said his team sympathised with anti-government protests at home and his team should be a voice for the oppressed at a press conference in Qatar a day ahead of the country's first World Cup match against England. 

Hajsafi, an experienced defender began a press conference on the eve of Iran's World Cup opener against England by extending his sympathies to the loved ones of victims of the regime's deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters.

"They should know that we sympathise with them," he said, before adding, "conditions at home are not good".

More than two months of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in custody, have created one of the boldest challenges to the Islamist regime since the 1979 revolution.

Iran's national team has been in the spotlight in the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar, with anticipation over whether players will use football's showpiece event as a platform to show solidarity with the protest movement.

"We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy," said Hajsafi. "We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we should not respect them."

The crackdown since Amini's death has left nearly 400 people dead, according to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.

Some Iranian sportsmen and women have made gestures seen by protesters as shows of support, including not singing the national anthem or celebrating victories on the field.

Other members of the team have avoided discussion of politics in public so far. Players Karim Ansarifard and Morteza Pouraliganji refused to answer questions on Friday about solidarity with women in Iran. On Thursday, midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who plays for Dutch club Feyenoord, suggested such questions were a ploy to distract the team.

Source: France24