Iran Exits the World Cup, But Player Safety Remains in Concern

Staff Writer: Colton Almeida

Email: calmeida4@umassd.edu

Iran was officially eliminated from the World Cup in a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of the United States last Tuesday. As the players make the return to their home country, concerns over their safety have become a critical matter. 

Back in September of 2022, mass protests broke out across Iran in reaction to the death of Masha Amini, a 22-year-old woman living in Iran who had been detained by the country’s morality police. Security forces across the nation responded with deadly force in an attempt to deter the outrage. 

On November 21st, in Iran’s first group stage match versus England, members of the Iranian team stood silent during the country’s national anthem. 

The ongoing human rights issues taking place within Iran are what sparked this protest by the national team. Human rights groups are commending the team’s protest. 

Image via thestar.com

Entering the match with England, the Iranian players had reportedly been promised gifts such as cars and other luxury items by the government. However, the tone quickly shifted following their refusal to sing the anthem.

Iranian leadership then proceeded to threaten the player’s families with imprisonment and torture if they failed to sing the anthem in their second match against Wales. 

This news came after sources said players had been called into a meeting with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps following the England match. This drastic step was alarming yet unsurprising from the harsh regime. 

In the pregame ceremony against Wales, the Iranian players sang the anthem without protest. They did so again prior to their final group-stage match against the U.S.

After Iran fell to the United States, many Iranian citizens celebrated the loss, viewing it as a blow to the regime. 

The team has transcended from the soccer field onto the world political stage. They have become a highly politicized weapon in the eyes of the Iranian people.

The World Cup has put Iran’s current human rights crisis in the spotlight, but many Iranians view what could have been a much larger protest as a missed opportunity to draw more global attention. 

Now, amid the chaos of the largest protests Iran has seen in years, it is unclear how the players will be welcomed home. Some fear retribution for the players and their families, as the domestic turmoil does not seem to be ending any time soon. 

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