Renamed “team Mullah”, Iran accused of not supporting the revolt

From our Special Envoy in Doha,

By taking over the head of the Iranian selection at the very beginning of September, Carlos Queiroz did not necessarily expect to have an easy life in Qatar. You would have to be crazy to be overconfident by embarking on a 2022 World Cup mission two months before the deadline. The height of misfortune for the Portuguese, his signature preceded by a week the death of Mahsa Amini, whose arrest for “wearing inappropriate clothes” by the morality police will have marked the starting point of the Iranian revolt against the regime. .

At least 378 people have been killed in the crackdown on protests that have been going on for two months, according to a latest report released on Saturday by the Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR). Death sentences were also pronounced against demonstrators arrested. It is therefore a bereaved people that Team Melli is preparing to represent in Qatar. “I would like to express my condolences to my people, said striker Mehdi Taremi, a few days before the match against England. Iran is going through difficult times and I want to send condolences to those who have lost loved ones. »

Sardar Azmoun alone in the fight

The messages of support from Iranian internationals have the merit of existing. Those to denounce the regime, a little less. Only Bayer Leverkusen star Sardar Azmoun dared to challenge power on the networks shortly after the death of Mahsa Amini. “It cannot be erased from our consciousness. Shame on you. They left a pain in the heart of the nation that history will never forget,” he wrote. A daring position that earned him the temporary closure of his Instagram account as a warning. Undaunted, Azmoun continues to support the Iranian people. “It’s the only one”, regrets Reza Mohaddes, journalist for Iran International.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is not easy to assert one’s political opinions. Mohaddes knows something about it: the team of journalists accredited by FIFA of which he was part saw their visas for Qatar canceled one week before the start of the 2022 World Cup. “avoid possible problems” during the tournament”, regrets the media.

“There is censorship in Iran,” continues Mohaddes. It’s very hard to be a journalist there and to express your feelings and ideas. As we speak, several journalists are in prison for telling the truth. As for the sportsmen, there is reason to believe that the government has put pressure on the national team of Iran, by threatening the players to be excluded from the list of 25 for the World Cup. »

The Iranian federation put pressure on Queiroz

Sardar Azmoun will be on the trip, but rumor has it that the Iranian federation pushed Carlos Queiroz to give up calling the Leverkusen player. The Portuguese had snubbed the press conference announcing his list for the CDM 2022 and ended up packing Azmoun in his suitcases. But the climate is resolutely tense around the coach, and the pressure is not necessarily easy to manage.

If the former Real Madrid coach did not hesitate to defend the freedom of expression of his men during a press conference on D-5 of Iran-England (“everyone has the right to express, as long as you respect the principles and values ​​of football), he ended up blowing a hose a few minutes later. The extra drop of water? A question from an English colleague on “his role as coach of a country that does not respect women’s rights”. “How much are you paying me for this question?” Don’t make me say what I didn’t say. Think for yourself about what has happened in your country with immigration. »

The advent of the “Team Mullah”

The answer comes in addition to a compilation of unflattering footage for Team Melli. It continues to fall in the esteem of its people, who have given it the nickname “Team Mullah” since a meeting alongside President Ebrahim Raisi just before the big departure for Qatar. The coach of Persepolis FC Yahya Golmohammadi (later summoned by the Iranian justice system) had in reaction strongly criticized the players of the national team for not “bringing the voice of the oppressed people to the ears of the authorities”. The overly cheerful official photoshoot that followed in Qatar didn’t really help to improve the team’s image.

“A lot of people were disappointed to see them laughing while people are dying,” said the journalist. People are disappointed with the Iranian national team but they still hope for action from them on Monday to prove that they stand with the people. »

Before the friendly match of September 27 which opposed them to Senegal, the Iranians had put on a black parka to hide their jersey at the time of the anthems. On October 10, only Vahid Amiri and Mehdi Torabi sang the national anthem before the match against Nicaragua. The question of the celebration of goals and the national anthem is not yet resolved in a dressing room cracked by political differences.

On Wednesday, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh assured that “discussions” were underway internally and that the decision to sing or not would be taken “collectively”. At the dawn of its debut against the English, the Melli team finds itself faced with a dilemma: to content itself wisely with its condition as an instrument of propaganda or to support the popular insurrection.

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