Turmoil at home swirls around Iran team ahead of World Cup

Sep 30, 2022, 10:03 AM | Updated: 10:07 pm
Iran's national soccer team head coach Carlos Queiroz, in red, watches a training session in Tehran...

Iran's national soccer team head coach Carlos Queiroz, in red, watches a training session in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Queiroz was rehired as Iran's coach on Wednesday, Sept. 7, to take the national soccer team to its third straight World Cup. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

              Iran's national soccer team goalkeeper Ali Reza Beiranvand, bottom, teammate Mehdi Shiri, top and Mehdi Torabi, left, move towards the media after a training session in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Iran will face the United States, England and Wales during Qatar's FIFA World Cup.  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
              Demonstrators attend a protest against the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in Iran while in police custody, was arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating its strictly-enforced dress code. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)
              Protesters gather outside the UN headquarters in Erbil on Sept. 24, 2022, to protest the death of Masha Amini, who had fallen into a coma for three days after being detained by the morality police in Tehran, Iran.  Iran has accused Kurdish opposition groups in exile of orchestrating the wave of protests across the country over the past two weeks. But Kurdish activists say the government is just trying to scapegoat them to distract from the domestic anger fueling the unrest.(AP Photo/Hawre Khalid, Metrography)
              Iran's national soccer team head coach Carlos Queiroz, in red, watches a training session in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Queiroz was rehired as Iran's coach on Wednesday, Sept. 7, to take the national soccer team to its third straight World Cup. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

GENEVA (AP) — Political issues are swirling around the Iran men’s soccer team amid turmoil on the streets at home just weeks before the World Cup where it will play the United States, Wales and England.

At home in Iran, two weeks of demonstrations and a violent crackdown by state authorities have followed the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the morality police. She had been detained for allegedly wearing a mandatory headscarf too loosely.

Players made their silent protest at a World Cup warmup game this week, where the Iranian soccer federation tried to silence fans by locking them out of the stadium in Austria.

The federation also tried this month to organize a warmup game in November with Russia, Iran’s military ally whose teams are pariahs in soccer since the invasion of Ukraine.

FIFA was urged Friday by long-time campaigners for the rights of women fans to attend games in Iran to expel the national team from the World Cup.

“The Islamic Republic’s authorities and its football federation must not be given the honor of participating in football’s finest tournament while it is killing its citizens on our streets,” the Open Stadiums group said.

Open Stadiums called on FIFA to uphold its statutory commitment to respect and strive to promote “all internationally recognized human rights.”

Soccer’s governing body did not immediately comment on the fans’ request.

FIFA already did expel Russia from this World Cup — imposing a ban before a European qualifying playoffs semifinal in March against Poland — though without invoking human rights reasons. Instead, FIFA cited “irreparable and chaotic” harm to the World Cup due to security risks and potential opponents likely refusing to play Russia.

Iran should certainly play at the World Cup in Qatar, its near neighbor across the Persian Gulf water, though the likelihood increased this week of political disruption for FIFA to deal with at the tournament starting Nov. 20.

Players have made their stand after being criticized for not reacting to Amini’s death days later at their first warmup game in Austria.

On Sunday, striker Sardar Azmoun wrote to his 4.9 million followers on Instagram that team rules prohibited comment “but I am no longer able to tolerate silence.”

He added being kicked out of the team would be “a small price to pay for even a single strand of Iranian women’s hair.”

A team-wide reaction followed Tuesday when the Iranian anthem played ahead of the game against Senegal. Each player wore a wore a plain black jacket that covered up their national team badge.

The game went ahead without fans in the stadium near Vienna, as the federation tried to stop demonstrators outside using a platform for dissent that would be seen on a live broadcast at home.

Star striker Mehdi Taremi later wrote on Instagram of being “ashamed” to see videos from Iran of violence against women in the streets.

Protesters in Iran have also targeted wider repression with some calls to overthrow the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

Soccer was drawn closer into the Iranian turmoil in the same week FIFA president Gianni Infantino claimed progress for women’s fans there at a World Trade Organization event in Geneva.

“Women attend football games now in Iran which was not possible until a couple of (months) ago,” Infantino said Tuesday, when he also visited United Nations human rights officials hours before the Iran players’ protest in Austria.

Infantino’s claim was disputed by Open Stadiums which said “when the Islamic Republic pretended to open league matches for women, it was far from the equality FIFA’s own statutes require.”

“To begin with, very few women could buy tickets, then in a humiliating way got physically harassed by Iran’s morality police,” the activist group said.

The tension between FIFA and Iranian women fans is despite some success at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

FIFA intervened four years ago to ensure fans could display their campaign banners in stadiums.

More cooperation could be called upon in Qatar, when Iran has a global audience to face England in just the second game of the tournament on Nov. 21.

Coach Carlos Queiroz’s team also faces Wales in Group B on Nov. 25 and four days later against the U.S.


John Duerden in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


France's Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the World Cup round of 16 so...
Associated Press

Mbappé is bringing soccer to a new dimension at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo’s precision. Lionel Messi’s vision. The speed and power of the original Ronaldo — the one from Brazil. Kylian Mbappé is elevating his performance to a new dimension at the World Cup. As Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo play what will likely be their final World Cup, the France and Paris […]
1 day ago
Poland's Robert Lewandowski waves after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between France and P...
Associated Press

Poland finds its true level at World Cup, beaten by the best

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Poland heads home from the World Cup as the latest team unable to overcome an inspired Kylian Mbappé, who dominated in France’s 3-1 win in the round of 16. It meant back-to-back losses against the game’s superstars, after Lionel Messi and Argentina won 2-0 in the last round of group-stage games. […]
1 day ago
Nelly Korda watches her shot from the third tee during the third round of the LPGA CME Group Tour C...
Associated Press

QBE Shootout to be mixed-team event for PGA and LPGA tours

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson are representing the LPGA Tour this week in the QBE Shootout. Next year, they will have plenty of company. The QBE Shootout will become a mixed-team event starting in 2023, returning such a format to the schedule for the first time since the JC Penney Classic […]
1 day ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) evades Houston Texans guard Kenyon Green (59) and d...
Associated Press

Analysis: Deshaun Watson has long way to go for improvement

HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson’s shaky performance wasn’t his biggest problem. Blame a two-year layoff for Watson being rusty. His refusal to express remorse for alleged behavior that led to an 11-game suspension is more difficult to explain. Watson made it clear earlier in the week he had no interest in discussing accusations by more […]
1 day ago
Senegal's Moussa Ndiaye, left, and England's Kyle Walker vie for the ball during the World Cup roun...
Associated Press

What next for African champ Senegal after World Cup exit?

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — African champion Senegal was outplayed by England and given a reality check as it was eliminated in the last 16 at the World Cup. Senegal was missing its best player in Sadio Mane through injury and was also hampered by the absence of other key players against England, but still held […]
1 day ago
FILE - Fans wait in line for beer at a fan zone ahead of the FIFA World Cup, in Doha, Qatar Saturda...
Associated Press

World Cup fans find booze at hotels, Qatar’s 1 liquor store

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — In a dusty neighborhood on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, guards stand duty at a gated compound ringed with razor wire, carefully checking passports and permits before allowing anyone inside. But this isn’t a prison or a high-security area associated with the ongoing World Cup. It’s the liquor store. Rigid limits […]
1 day ago
Turmoil at home swirls around Iran team ahead of World Cup