Clashes between Iranian fans before Wales game

Clashes between Iranian fans before Wales game

5: 27 AM ET

  • Associated Press

Tensions ran high at Iran‘s 2-0 win over Wales at the World Cup on Friday as fans supporting the Iranian government harassed those protesting against it and stadium security seized flags, T-shirts and other items expressing support for the protest movement that has gripped the Islamic Republic. Stadium security prevented some fans from bringing in Persian prerevolutionary flags for the match against Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

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Others carrying such flags had them ripped from their hands by pro-government Iran fans, who also shouted insults at fans wearing T-shirts with the slogan of the protest movement gripping the country: “Woman, Life, Freedom. “

Unlike in their first match against England, the Iran players sang along to their national anthem before the match as some fans in the stadium wept, whistled and booed. The national team has been closely scrutinized for any statements or gestures regarding the protests that have rocked Iran for several weeks.

Iran’s first goal scorer against Wales was Rouzbeh Cheshmi. He said that Carlos Queiroz’s team had overcome “non-football pressures” and won the game. The squad was criticized in Iran for representing the government. Pro-regime supporters slammed the players for refusing the national anthem prior to the 6-2 defeat against England.

Cheshmi, who is an Esteghlal player in Iran, said that he and his team have had to overcome immense pressure to perform in Qatar.

” In the first game, there were great pressures on the group and the team. This is why we couldn’t get the result against England,” Cheshmi stated. “This time, we were ready and capable of winning. It was because of the team’s solidarity that we were able to achieve this result.

” I should mention that football-related pressures are acceptable. You have good and bad days. But unfair pressure on us would be wrong.

“Some things happened that were not fair. We received non-football pressures and the whole team helped one another. The team worked hard, and I scored. “

Around the stadium, shouting matches broke out between people shouting “Women, Life, Freedom!” and others shouting “The Islamic Republic!” “

Three women were being interviewed about the protests outside the stadium by small mobs of men. They disrupted broadcasts and shouted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran!” Many women fans looked shaken as Iranian government supporters shouted abuse at them in Farsi. They also filmed them on their phones.

Inside the stadium, a woman with dark red tears painted from her eyes held aloft a football jersey with “Mahsa Amini – 22” printed on the back — a reference to the 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman whose death in police custody two months ago ignited the nationwide protests in Iran, a Reuters photo showed.

One 35-year-old woman named Maryam, who like other Iran fans declined to give her last name for fear of government reprisals, started to cry as shouting men blowing horns encircled her and filmed her face. She had “Woman Life Freedom” written on her face.

Maryam and her friends had worn hats emblazoned with the name of an outspoken Iranian former football player Voria Ghafouri, who had criticised Iranian authorities and was arrested in Iran on Thursday on accusations of spreading propaganda against the government. She claimed that Iranian government supporters had taken their hats off their heads.

” We want to raise awareness about his arrest as well as the women’s rights movement. Maryam, who is originally from Tehran but now lives in London, said it was simple. “I’m not here fighting with anyone, but people are attacking me and calling my terrorist. I am here to say that football doesn’t matter if people get killed in the streets. “

Ghafouri, who is Kurdish, was a star member of Iran’s 2018 World Cup team, but was surprisingly not named in the squad for this year in Qatar. It was obvious that this match had become highly politicized this week. You can see people from the same country who hate each other,” said Mustafa, a 40-year-old Iran fan who also declined to give his surname.

” I think Voria’s arrest has had a significant impact on society in Iran. Protesters furious in Iran have been venting anger over political and social repression as well as the state-mandated hijab for women.

The demonstrations, spurred by Amini’s Sept. 16 death in the custody of the country’s morality police, have quickly grown into calls for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself.

At least 419 people have been killed since the protests erupted, according to monitoring group Human Rights Activists in Iran. The turmoil has overshadowed Iran’s World Cup campaign. The scene of protests was created by anti-government supporters waving signs and shouting in the stands during Monday’s opening match against England.

Ahead of the 6-2 loss to England, Iran’s players were silent as the national anthem was played and they didn’t celebrate their two goals.

They sang along to the anthem on Friday and celebrated the 2-0 win against Wales.

Ayeh shams, a US citizen, was present at the game against Wales together with her brother. She said that security guards took her flag because it contained the word “women”.

“We’re first-generation American. Our parents were born and raised in Iran. Shams stated that they were just there to enjoy the games and provide a platform for Iranians who are fighting against the Islamic Regime.

Zeinlabda Arwa, a security guard at the stadium, confirmed that authorities had been given orders to confiscate anything but the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

” Whether you’re referring to Iran, Qatar, or any other country, you can only bring in the regular flag,” she stated.

An angry group of Iranian government supporters shouted at Elyas Doerr, a 16-year-old Iranian living in Arizona who was wearing the Persian flag as a cape, until he took it off and put it in his bag. They don’t like that it’s political statement,” he stated, adding that other Iranian supporters had approached him to express appreciation for the gesture.

Follow Friday’s match with Iranians shouting anti-government slogans from rooftops of Tehran.

Scattered protests also erupted in Kurdish towns in the country’s west and across the central city of Isfahan on Thursday.

Iranian state TV dedicated its main news bulletin Friday to Iranian football prowess. It wished the national team luck against Wales, and aired a montage highlighting Iranian goals throughout history.

Information from ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden and Reuters was used in this report.

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