The refusal of Iran’s football team to sing the national anthem reflects growing outrage towards their homeland’s rulers
On Monday, 11 men defied their leaders in a show of solidarity with protests which have been led by women, but have drawn support from across society. What began as a rejection of the compulsory hijab in Iran has become a collective expression of fury with the repressive regime. Not one member of the Iranian football team sang the national anthem when it was played before their World Cup match against England. Earlier, Ehsan Hajsafi, the Iranian captain, said bereaved families should know “that we are with them, we support them and we sympathise with them” and that “the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy”.
The players risked not fines, not a booking, but retribution from a vindictive state. In doing so, they joined other courageous athletes and stars, as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary men and women who have taken to the streets in 155 cities. Celebrity offers limited protection: on Sunday, two prominent actors, Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi, were arrested for their “provocative” posts after removing their hijabs on social media.