The Iranian team will start the 2022 World Cup against England on Monday (14:00) in a particularly tense geopolitical context. Sardar Azmoun’s teammates are in Qatar as violent protests engulf their country. With the prospect of confrontation with the US again amid diplomatic tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Can football still be considered a game under these conditions? The Iranian team is in Qatar to prove itself at the end of the year. But the round ball will surely take a back seat during the 2022 World Cup, the sixth in its history (third in a row). Mehdi Taremi’s teammates, who are in Group B, will kick off the tournament against England on Monday at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha (14:00).
And they will not be able to free themselves from a particularly tense geopolitical context. For more than two months, thousands of people have been rebelling against the current regime in their country, represented by President Ebrahim Raissi and the commander of the army’s ground forces, General Kioumars Heydari. Under the control of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Death of Masha Amin
This scandal started on September 16 with the death of a young woman of Kurdish origin (22 years old) from Iran. The latter was accused of wearing his headscarf “indecently”.
Since 1979, women in Iran have been required to wear the hijab, a headscarf that covers the hair and leaves the face uncovered. A special police force enforces this rule with strong methods, great impunity, and fairly random judgment. Violators are fined, but they face jail time or even whipping. Despite the harsh repression of the police, the treatment has become intolerable for a part of the population who are now expressing their anger on the street.
Iranian players mobilized
In parallel with these protest movements, there have been mobilizations in recent days to commemorate the “bloody November” of 2019, when the regime bloodily suppressed demonstrations against rising fuel prices. What makes the situation in West Asia a little more inflamed. In recent weeks, several hundred protesters have reportedly been killed as a result of the crackdown. Some were sentenced to death by courts for their involvement in the floods, and thousands were imprisoned.
Since the protests began, Iranian football players have shown support for their people despite threats of sanctions from the authorities. Between black bracelets, positions or protocol boycott. At the end of September, the players of “Team Melli” wore a black parka while singing the national anthem in a friendly match against Senegal (1:1) in Austria. They hide their uniforms.
“Everyone has the right to express themselves”
Some of them even spoke in public, like Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmun. “The final punishment is expulsion from the national team, which is a small price for an Iranian woman’s hair. This will never be erased from our conscience. I was not afraid of expulsion. It’s a shame. Long live you and Iranian women for killing the people so easily. If they are Muslims, may God make me an infidel.” “, – wrote the 27-year-old striker, who has not played for a month and a half due to a calf problem, in an Instagram story that was finally deleted.
Head coach Carlos Queiroz, who returned to the Iran bench this summer, was asked about this before the World Cup began. “Everyone has the right to express themselves,” replied the Portuguese coach, who selected twenty-five players (including four goalkeepers). Some kneel, some agree, some don’t. I don’t agree with that. And Iran is exactly the same. It is impossible to think that the Iranian national team suffers from such problems.”
Reunification with the United States
Iran, which is considered the best country in Asia and takes the 20th place in the FIFA ranking (ahead of Serbia and Morocco), wants to advance to the playoffs of the World Cup for the first time. . Wales will also need to get rid of Gareth Bale (November 25) before finishing the group stage with the long-awaited poster against the USA (November 29). Against the backdrop of tension between the two countries, whose diplomatic relations have been broken for nearly forty years.
The fall of the last Shah of Iran (Mohammed Reza Pahlavi) in February 1979 marked the beginning of a kind of cold war between Tehran and Washington. With more or less dark periods, but no armed conflict on the front. Criticisms, accusations and threats from one side of the globe to the other follow each other between two rare moments of calm. Suffice it to say that the game, scheduled for November 29 at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha (8 p.m.), is highly symbolic.
A happy memory of 1998
This will be the second time that the Iranians and the Americans will meet in the World Cup. The first poster took place on June 21, 1998 in Lyon. Thanks to the goals of Hamidreza Estili and Mehdi Mahdavikia, Iran won (2-1). A success celebrated by local supporters with indescribable joy. Despite the extreme pressure, the match took place in cordial conditions on the field. Before the match, Iranian players presented white flowers to their American counterparts. On their sides before posing, arm up, arm down. The photo then went around the world and gave hope that the situation would eventually calm down. Twenty-four years later, this is far from the case.