Iran’s defeat in the World Cup against the United States was accompanied by cheers and joy in Tehran and other Iranian cities on Tuesday evening, while protesters considered the country’s withdrawal from the tournament a blow to the ruling regime.
The country was eliminated from the tournament after losing 1-0 to Qatar on Tuesday, ending a campaign overshadowed by months of anti-government protests at home.
But there are concerns about the safety of Iranian players returning home across the Persian Gulf after the team initially refused to sing Iran’s national anthem before their first game in a show of solidarity with protesters. A source related to the security of the games said: the families of this team were also threatened with prison and torture before the start of the match.
People in several Iranian cities celebrated from inside their homes and residential buildings moments after the final whistle blew in the early hours of Wednesday local time, while videos posted on social media showed people They honk their car horns, chant slogans and whistle.
“I’m happy, it’s the government losing to the people,” a witness to the city celebrations in the Kurdistan Region, who CNN is not naming due to security concerns, told CNN on Wednesday.
Iranian legal group Hengaw, based in Norway, has published several videos of similar scenes. Hangao wrote in a post: The people of Pawah are celebrating the loss of the Iranian national team against the United States in the World Cup in Qatar, chanting death to Josh (traitors).
For several months, protests have rocked Iran and provoked a deadly crackdown by the authorities. The nationwide uprising was first ignited by the killing of Mahsa (known as Gina) Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died in mid-September after being arrested by the country’s morality police. Since then, protesters across Iran have united around a range of grievances with the regime.
Volker Turk, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said the country is in a “full-blown human rights crisis” as authorities crack down on protests.
Soccer has become a hot topic in recent weeks with the World Cup turning the global spotlight on domestic unrest.
And fans who follow the team in Qatar are increasingly divided about their support. “Our team has been hijacked,” longtime fan Farshad Sohail told CNN. This is no longer the representative of the people of Iran.”
Sohaili said that the Iranian regime has managed to politicize and weaponize the team and criticized the players for not making a bigger statement about the protests. “It was a missed historic opportunity,” Sohaili said.
Before Tuesday’s game, many fans said they didn’t want Iran to win. The reason is not because of football. [but] For political reasons,” another fan, Farshid – who withheld his last name for security reasons – told CNN in Doha.
“I have mixed emotions,” Farshid said. I am one of the passionate fans of Iran, but today, unfortunately, due to the current situation and the government’s attempt to steal the game and sport and use it as a platform to buy credit and use it, I cannot be a fan of the national team. Show that everything is normal (with) what is happening in Iran.”
Farshid said that many fans of the Iranian regime have also attended the Iran World Cup games in Doha and by trying to interfere in their interviews with the media, they have created a very tense atmosphere for other Iranian fans.
The Iranian national team would advance to the second round of the World Cup with a win or a draw against the United States, but this team is now on its way home after exiting the group stage.
Midfielder Saeed Ezzatullah told reporters after the game: On behalf of the players and our group, I am really sorry that we could not get the chance to advance to the next round. I hope our fans and people in Iran will forgive us. And I’m just sorry, that’s all.”
The team’s return will be closely watched amid fears the players could face retaliation for their short-lived support of the protests, which have drawn international attention and praise from human rights groups.
The flag and national anthem of the country have been rejected by the protesters as symbols of the current regime. And following Iranian players’ refusal to sing the national anthem in their opening match against England on November 21, a source involved in security at the Games told CNN that the players were called to meet with members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. (Army).
The source said they were told their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the national anthem or join any political protests against the Tehran regime.
The players sang this anthem on Tuesday before their second game against Wales last Friday, which Iran won 2-0.
According to the state news agency IRNA, hours before the start of the game on Tuesday, Iranian officials said that Parviz Broumand, a former player of the national football team, who was arrested this month for criticizing the government, was released on bail.
Iranian media reported that Broumand was arrested in mid-November during protests in Tehran. Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian-Kurdish soccer player Vouriya Ghafouri was also released on bail.
Iranian football legend Ali Karimi, who is sometimes referred to as the “Maradona of Asia”, has also said that he received death threats from his family members after openly supporting the protests.
According to Iran’s Supreme Judicial Council, the government identified him as one of the “main leaders” of the protests and issued a warrant for his arrest in early October, accusing him of “coordinating with the enemy” and “encouraging rebellion.” Both charges are punishable by death.