Iran’s head coach Carlos Queiroz has urged fans who booed and jeered the national anthem to ‘stay at home’ following his side’s 6-2 defeat to England in their World Cup opener on Monday.
In a clear show of support to the anti-government protests in their country, Iran’s players opted not to sing the national anthem before the game against England, while heavy booing could be heard from Iran’s supporters around the Al Khalifa Stadium.
Several fans also held up banners in support of women’s rights in Iran inside the ground.
Multiple anti-regime demonstrations have been staged in Iran over the past two months following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody after she was arrested for not wearing a hijab.
Ahead of the tournament in Qatar, Iran’s players were criticised after they met with the country’s president Ebrahim Raisi, but Queiroz has called on supporters to ease the pressure on his squad after their defeat at the World Cup.
‘Everybody knows the present circumstances, of the environment of my players is not the best environment, in term of commitment, concentration, because they are affected by those issues,’ Queiroz said.
‘They are human beings, they are kids, I know them for a lot of years, they only have one dream, to follow the legends of the Iran country, play for the country, play for the people, and enjoy playing for the people.
‘I am very proud of them, the way they stand up, keep fighting, and scored two goals against England under these circumstances.
‘They did well, very proud of what they did. But of course if you want one example, in 2014 and 2018, we had full support from fans.
‘Now, you saw what happened today. That’s why I invite the fans of Iran who are not here already to support the team, they should stay at home.
‘Why do they come here to not support the team? It would be much better for them to stay at home. We don’t need them. It’s something the players feel when they are not playing.’
Queiroz added: ‘You don’t imagine, you don’t even know, what these kids have been living in the past few days.
‘Just because they want to play football. Whatever they do, whatever they say, they want to kill them.
‘Can you imagine at that stage of your life, that whatever you do, or say, or think, you’re killed? They only have one hope – to play for the people and the country.
‘So let them play the game. That’s the only thing we ask.’