DOHA, QATAR - JUNE 21: (EDITORS NOTE: This photograph was taken using a drone) An aerial view of Al Janoub stadium at sunrise on June 21, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar. Al Janoub stadium is a host venue of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 starting in November. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Iranian National Team Members Protest Their Government

While Iranian citizens march through Tehran’s streets, Iranian athletes take a stand on the world’s biggest stage.

Before their international friendly against Senegal, members of the Iranian Men’s National Soccer Team publicly protested against their government. Team Melli wore black jackets over their national team uniforms during the playing of their national anthem.

This was done in protest of Mahsa Amini’s death in Iranian police custody. Amini had allegedly worn her headscarf too loosely. Iran has a morality police who enforce a strict dress code. Amini was in violation of this dress code. As a result, Iranian police arrested Amini. She collapsed and died after 3 days at a police station in Tehran.

This sparked protests throughout Iran. Iranian police claimed that Amini died of a sudden heart problem. Protesters believe this death was the result of police violence, hence their protests.

The protests have turned increasingly violent, with the Iranian government cracking down on protesters. The government has deployed riot police. This has resulted in widespread injuries and destruction. As of September 24th, Iranian police killed 17 protesters

These protests have spread into the soccer world. Last week, two Iranian supporters publicly protested Amini’s death during Iran’s friendly against Uruguay in Austria. Austrian police removed the two men from the stadium.

Iranian soccer players have also shown their support for protesters on social media. Bayer Leverkusen and Iranian National Team midfielder Sardar Azmoun voiced his support for protesters on Instagram.

“The ultimate [punishment] is to be kicked out of the national team, which is a small price to pay for even a single strand of Iranian women’s hair. Shame on you for easily killing the people and viva women of Iran. Long live Iranian women!” said Azmoun.

Sports are inherently political. Soccer is no exception.

About Connor O'Bryan

Connor O'Bryan is a world soccer reporter for ESPN Gainesville. He also sometimes covers baseball and other sports. He has previously written for WUFT Gainesville and for Atrium Magazine. Connor also cohosts the "Off The Bar Podcast", a student driven podcast that focuses on the global soccer landscape.

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