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How One Team Gave Its Government the Proverbial Middle Finger at the World Cup

AP Photo/Martin Meissner

The World Cup in Qatar has drawn a lot of media coverage completely unrelated to the games themselves. As Townhall previously reported, the government’s abysmal human rights record has overshadowed the games, particularly its treatment of migrant workers, women, journalists, and gay people. But the Iranian team is drawing attention for a different reason. 

Amid widespread protests against the theocratic regime that have gripped the country, Iran’s national soccer team stood silently as the national anthem was played prior to their match against England on Monday. In the stadium, some Iranian fans joined the protest, booing and singing the pre-revolutionary national anthem instead, while others would have brought the country’s pre-revolutionary flag in had they not been forced to surrender them. Some fans did manage to put a protest message on one giant flag, however, writing “Woman Life Freedom.”

Back home, soccer fans celebrated Iran’s loss to England, giving the proverbial middle finger to the regime. One man even drove around Tehran waving a Union Jack flag.

Elsewhere in the Iranian capital, thousands of people packed into residential high rises could be heard whistling and cheering as their team were routed, while another clip - blurred to protect the identity of those involved - showed protesters dancing in celebration following the defeat.

Such open disdain for Iran's footballing campaign comes as widespread protests continue to rock the nation following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in police custody in September.

'The protest movement has overshadowed the football,' said Kamran, a linguistics professor who lives in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran. 'I want Iran to lose these games.'

Anusha, a 17-year-old whose Tehran high school has been rocked by protests, said the recent unrest had changed everything for her.

'A few months ago I would have said of course I want Iran to win against England and America,' she said. 'Now, it's strange. I really don't care.' (The Daily Mail)

According to human rights groups, approximately 15,000 Iranians have been arrested while hundreds have been killed amid the regime’s brutal crackdown on months of protests throughout the country.

Update: The captain of Iran’s national soccer team spoke out in support of the protests.

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