Iran’s World Cup defeat to the United States was greeted with cheers and celebrations in Tehran and other Iranian cities on Tuesday night.
The country dropped out of the tournament in Qatar after losing 1-0 on Tuesday, ending a campaign overshadowed by months of anti-government protests that have raged at home. .
But there are concerns about the safety of Iranian players returning home across the Persian Gulf as the team initially refused to sing the Iranian national anthem before their first match, clearly showing solidarity with the demonstrators. . The team’s family members were also threatened with imprisonment and torture before the game, said a source involved in match security.
People in several Iranian cities celebrated inside their homes and residential buildings just after the closing whistle blew in the early hours of local time on Wednesday.
“This makes me happy that the government has lost to the people,” one eyewitness to the celebrations in a city in the Kurdish region told CNN on Wednesday.
Norway-based Iranian rights group Hengaw posted several videos of similar scenes. “The people of Pave are celebrating Iran’s defeat to the USA in the World Cup in Qatar and chanting ‘Defeat Jashu’,” Henggo said in a post.
Demonstrations rocked Iran for months and sparked a deadly crackdown by the authorities. The nationwide riots were first sparked by the death of Mahsa (also known as Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died in mid-September after being detained by the country’s morality police. Since then, protesters across Iran have banded together over a range of grievances against the regime.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Director-General Volker Turk said the country was in a “genuine human rights crisis” as authorities cracked down on the protests.
Football has become an increasingly hot flashpoint in recent weeks, with the World Cup putting a global spotlight on domestic turmoil.
And fans who follow the team in Qatar are increasingly conflicted about their support. “Our team has been hijacked,” longtime fan Farshad Sohail told CNN. “It no longer represents the people of Iran.”
Soheiri said the Iranian regime had succeeded in politicizing and weaponizing the team and was critical of the players for not making a more grandiose statement about the protests. ‘ said Soheiri.
Ahead of Tuesday’s match, many supporters said they did not want Iran to win. “The reason is not football reasons, [but] For political reasons,” another fan called Farshid, whose last name was withheld for security reasons, told CNN in Doha.
“I’m a mix of feelings and emotions,” Farshid said. “I am an avid supporter of Iran, but unfortunately I cannot be a supporter of the national team today because of the ongoing situation and the fact that the government is trying to take over the game and sport and use it as a platform. Use it to gain credibility and show that everything happening in Iran is normal.”
Farshid said many pro-regime supporters had also attended Iran’s World Cup match in Doha and made other Iranian fans very nervous by trying to disrupt interviews with the media. He said that he created a comfortable environment.
Iran’s national team could have advanced to the second round of the World Cup with a win or draw with the United States, but the team would return home after a group stage exit.
Midfielder Saeed Ezatra told reporters after the game: “On behalf of the players and the group, we are very sorry that we didn’t get the chance to play in the next round.” I hope that the fans of .and the people of Iran will forgive us.
The team’s return was watched closely amid concerns that players could face retaliation for what was perceived as a brief show of support for the protests that drew international attention and praise from human rights groups. increase.
The country’s flag and national anthem were also rejected by protesters as symbols of the current government. A source familiar with the news told CNN that the athlete was called to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. (IRGC).
The source said the family was told they would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the national anthem or participate in political protests against the Tehran regime.
The players sang the national anthem on Tuesday before Iran’s second match against Wales last Friday, which they won 2-0.
Hours before the match began on Tuesday, Iranian authorities announced that Parviz Boromand, a former member of the national football team who was arrested earlier this month for criticizing the government, had been released on bail, according to state news agency IRNA.
Boroumand was arrested in mid-November during protests in Tehran, Iranian media reported. Earlier Tuesday, Iranian-Kurdish footballer Boria Ghafori was also released on bail.
Meanwhile, Iranian football legend Ali Karimi, who has been dubbed the “Maradona of Asia” by some, said he received death threats through his family after vocally supporting the protests.
According to Iran’s Supreme Judicial Council, the government has described him as one of the “key leaders” of the demonstrations and issued an arrest warrant in early October on charges of “harmonizing with the enemy” and “facilitating riots.” . , both charges are punishable by death.