After their heavy loss to England in the opening game of Group B, Iran had a must-win game against Wales in Friday's early kick-off at the 2022 World Cup.
Of course, the reality is that the football has not been the paramount story surrounding the Iranian team at this World Cup, with the team's stand against the oppression in their home country earning them praise from football fans.
The players refused to sing the national anthem ahead of the England game earlier this week. Though they did sing the anthem on Friday afternoon, they showed little passion in doing so, and the boos, jeers, and tears witnessed from the Iranian crowd were a powerful message against the government's actions.
Iran v Wales: Powerful scenes as Iranian fans reduced to tears during anthems
The ongoing protests in Iran are a direct result of the death of Mahsa Amini earlier this year. Amini was only 22 when she was arrested in Tehran on September 13 for allegedly breaking the Morality Police's guidelines on women's clothing. Reports suggested that she was brutally beaten to death by officers, sparking intense protests for women's rights across the country. The Iranian authorities denied that Amini was killed by officers.
The unrest in their country has been the dominant topic of discussion for Iran's players and coaches since the World Cup kicked off, with manager Carlos Quieroz angrily reacting to a reporter's questions on the protests ahead of the Wales game.
Star player Mehdi Taremi denied ahead of Friday's game that the team had been pressured by the authorities into singing the national anthem but, nonetheless, the players did indeed sing (or, rather, mutter) when the anthem was played pre-match.
For anyone who might be wondering why the Iranian players sang the anthem this time…
It was done so with fear. Not with pride. https://t.co/IpO7mfxumC
— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) November 25, 2022
This decision came hours after former Iranian international Voria Ghafouri was arrested for having "tarnished the reputation of the national team" and allegedly spreading propaganda against the Iranian state. An ambassador for Amnesty International reported that Ghafouri's current whereabouts are unknown.
Nobody could fault the Iran team for their decision to sing the anthem, with such a frightening situation ongoing. In the stands, the reaction from the Iran fans was intensely emotional.
🚨 BREAKING: dramatic scenes during Iran v Wales
Iranian players forced to sing the national anthem (threatened by Islamic occupiers)
Fans react by crying and booing #IranRevolution pic.twitter.com/ryC7xsJkhJ
— Mahyar Tousi (@MahyarTousi) November 25, 2022
📸 - Lots of emotions during the National anthem of Iran. pic.twitter.com/vTqIFD92J9
— 𝐀𝐅𝐂 𝐀𝐉𝐀𝐗 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) November 25, 2022
— Yosef Yisrael (@yosefyisrael25) November 25, 2022
Boos around stadium during Iran anthem - which players are singing today. Reaction at the end as big screen shows a female fan in tears. Felt like quite a significant moment. pic.twitter.com/Bb3gn4F2L8
— Daniel McDonnell (@McDonnellDan) November 25, 2022
Iran players just about singing the anthem today, but half-heartedly, while many Iranian fans jeered, amid the ongoing political situation back home. pic.twitter.com/sDNeDZAjGu
— Chris Flanagan (@CFlanaganFFT) November 25, 2022
Support inside the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium for Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested and severely beaten by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab.💔 pic.twitter.com/Fj8kzAdVsb
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) November 25, 2022
Photos from inside the ground appeared to show security confiscating a fan's shirt with Mahsa Amini's name printed on the back.
Iranian fan has shirt with name of Mahsa Amini removed by security at Iran v Wales game pic.twitter.com/8wstcZAqnQ
— David Harding (@DM_Harding) November 25, 2022
The scenes ahead of Iran v Wales were a powerful stand against the oppression from the Iranian regime, and the team continue to show solidarity with the ongoing protests.