TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s heavy defeat against England in its opening World Cup game resulted from players facing pressure amid two months of national protests, Iranian media claimed Tuesday.
A wave of national demonstrations has swept Iran since the September death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman arrested for violating the country’s strict dress code.
Authorities denounce the protests as “riots” and thousands of people have been arrested.
On the second day of the World Cup on Monday, Iran was swept aside 6-2 by England in Group B.
Iran’s team refused to sing its national anthem in a show of support for the country’s ongoing protests.
Ultra-conservative daily Javan said “Team Melli” (national team in Persian) “was under intense media pressure even before the start of the game.”
“These pressures put Iran in a completely unequal position against England,” it noted.
Iranian football team protesting against the regime by refusing to sing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem at World Cup in Qatar. pic.twitter.com/JRmTsUU3e8
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) November 21, 2022
Reformist newspaper Shargh suggested “Internet users had reproached the players for no longer supporting the protest movement.”
“The team was affected by these criticisms, the consequences of which were seen in the first match of the World Cup,” it added.
Ultra-conservative newspaper Kayhan accused “media affiliated with the Zionist regime (Israel) and Saudi Arabia” of “launching an unprecedented and cowardly psychological and media war” against Iran’s players.
While praising the team’s two goals against a “powerful English team,” the daily criticized “certain players” for not singing the national anthem.
For Hamshahri, the newspaper of Tehran’s municipality, “the World Cup is not over yet” and Iran’s “next two matches can change the situation.”
Another reformist newspaper Arman-e Melli regretted “fans were divided” and that “some even applauded the defeat of the Iranian team.”
Iran is due to play Group B rivals Wales on Friday, before facing the United States on November 29.