Iran’s coach says that his players can protest during the World Cup

Iran’s players may participate in the country’s ongoing protests over women’s rights during the World Cup, but only if they follow the tournament’s guidelines, national team coach Carlos Queiroz said on Tuesday.

According to human rights NGO HRANA, 344 individuals have been slain and 15,280 detained over the last two months of nationwide demonstrations inspired by the demise of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in the custody of Iran’s moral police.

The Iranian regime claims that her death was due to pre-existing conditions and that its enemies were fomenting the unrest in order to destabilize the country. In addition to being a legitimacy crisis for the clerical establishment that has been in power for over four decades, the demonstrations have turned into a legitimacy crisis for the Iranian regime.

In September, Iran’s players covered up the national team badge during two warm-up internationals, an act which was seen as a sign of support for the protests.

However, their meeting with Iranian leaders before their departure for Doha, where they trained for the first time on Tuesday, has been heavily criticized on Twitter in the last few days.

As long as World Cup regulations are adhered to and the game is honoured, players may protest as they would in any other nation, Queiroz said in a news conference.

FIFA has recently adopted a more accepting approach to protests, including several teams wearing t-shirts calling for human rights in protests against World Cup hosts Qatar, who have been opposed to players, teams, and fans engaging in such activities.

When asked if he was proud to coach a country that repressed women, Queiroz answered caustically, “How much would you pay me to answer that question?”

Despite being drawn in a tough Group B with England, Wales, and the United States, the coach said Iran’s players had set themselves the goal of reaching the second round. They begin their match against England on Monday at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Iran has not reached the knockout stages in any of their previous five World Cup appearances. “They not only want to take part in history, but also to make it,” said Queiroz.

“My primary concern as national team coach is whether or not we have made people happy and pleased through football.”

Despite England’s current poor performance, Queiroz still thinks they can be beaten. He said, ‘Few teams can perform as well as England did in their last match against Germany.’

Image Credit: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem