Iranian forward, Mehdi Taremi thinks that the crackdown on protests in Iran made it difficult for Iran’s players to concentrate on their game during Monday’s 6-2 loss to England.
At the Khalifa International Stadium last time out, Taremi became the first Iranian player to score a World Cup double, but his efforts fell short of preventing England from recording their biggest victory in a World Cup or European Championships opener.
Iran players protest in Qatar 2022
Iran’s players chose not to sing their national anthem during the game, ostensibly in support of anti-government protesters there, creating a tense atmosphere.
According to human rights organisations, more than 400 people have died as a result of Iran’s crackdown on protests, which started after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested for refusing to wear the required hijab, passed away in police custody in September.
Taremi charges teammates
Taremi backed Iran to improve in their performances ahead of two pivotal Group B matches against Wales and the United States.
“In my opinion, the first game was not football at all. Because of so many issues that existed, football was the only one not in question,” Taremi said at Thursday’s pre-match press conference.
“I think our game starts now. We have two games and we have to play them to gain six points, so that we can make our people happy.
“That’s why we are here. That’s why all the players are here. That’s what we want to do, to make the hearts of our people happy.”
Iran coach Carlos’s statement
Carlos Queiroz, the team’s head coach, also made a suggestion that Iran’s previous performance had been impacted by off-the-field issues while pleading with the media to keep their attention on sports.
“To make them [Iran’s players] the only people that have to give you answers about human problems in the world, I don’t think it’s fair,” Queiroz said.
“In my opinion, it’s time to ask other countries and players what they think of other issues, and there are some big issues in the world.
“I feel my players are back to their roots, back to football. We had a great training session today with a lot of fun and skill.
“Let them play the game, play for their people, like England or the United States play for their people.”
Gareth Bale, the captain of Wales, praised the Iranian team for their apparent support of those working to advance women’s rights in their country.
“It must be difficult, the situation they find themselves in,” Bale said. “I guess they know as footballers they have a big platform to create awareness, and they obviously have their beliefs.
“It’s difficult to comment on, because I don’t know a lot about it – I’m not a politician, I’m here to play football.
“They showed their togetherness, their strength as a national team, and I guess they’re only trying to do it to make life better for everybody.”