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Iran team sings anthem at World Cup after previously staying silent amid protests

Crowd boos and jeers as players sing, some with their eyes closed; Iranian fans seen crying in stadium; pro-government fans harass anti-government soccer supporters

(From L) Iran's defender #03 Ehsan Hajsafi, Iran's goalkeeper #24 Hossein Hosseini, Iran's midfielder #06 Saeid Ezatolahi, Iran's goalkeeper #22 Amir Abedzadeh and Iran's defender #08 Morteza Pouraliganji sing the national anthem during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between Wales and Iran at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on November 25, 2022.  Fadel Senna / AFP)
(From L) Iran's defender #03 Ehsan Hajsafi, Iran's goalkeeper #24 Hossein Hosseini, Iran's midfielder #06 Saeid Ezatolahi, Iran's goalkeeper #22 Amir Abedzadeh and Iran's defender #08 Morteza Pouraliganji sing the national anthem during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between Wales and Iran at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on November 25, 2022. Fadel Senna / AFP)

Iran’s team sang the national anthem ahead of their World Cup game against Wales in Qatar on Friday, days after the players remained silent in apparent support for anti-government protesters in their homeland.

As the anthem began, the crowd in the stadium erupted into loud jeers and boos.

Some of the players closed their eyes as they sang, others barely mumbled the words.

However, there did seem to be some sympathy for the players, who many assume had faced unbearable pressure after their protest at the opening game.

Iranian fans could be seen crying in the stands throughout the anthem.

Ahead of the game, pro-government fans harassed anti-government fans outside the stadium in Qatar.

Some Iran fans confiscated Persian pre-revolutionary Iranian flags from supporters entering the stadium and shouted insults at those wearing shirts with the slogan of the country’s protest movement, “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

Small mobs of men angrily chanted “The Islamic Republic of Iran” at women giving interviews about the protests to foreign media.

Many female fans were visibly shaken as Iranian government supporters surrounded them with national flags and filmed them on their phones.

An Iran supporter cries as she holds a shirt that reads ‘Mahsa Amini’ prior to the start of the World Cup group B soccer match between Wales and Iran, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Nov. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Shouting matches erupted outside the security checkpoint at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium between fans screaming “Women, Life, Freedom” and others shouting back “The Islamic Republic.”

Friday’s game came a day after Iranian security forces arrested national soccer player Voria Ghafouri over accusations that he spread “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic, Fars news agency reported.

Ahead of Monday’s game in Qatar where the players did not sing, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh said the team would decide together whether or not to refuse to sing the anthem in a show of solidarity for demonstrations that have rocked the regime in Iran.

The Iranian players stood impassive and grim-faced as their anthem rang out around the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha ahead of their first game against England.

Iran players listen to the national anthem ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 21, 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

Iran has been shaken by two months of nationwide protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Some Iranian athletes have chosen not to sing the national anthem or celebrate their victories in support of the protesters.

Hundreds of Iranians have been killed in the deadly crackdown since the protests began.

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