The Iranian footballers sang their national anthem before taking on Wales at the World Cup on Friday – after refusing to sing the anthem in their opening game against England earlier this week.
Iran’s fans booed and mocked the national anthem, but unlike against England, the team’s players did not remain silent and sang the words of the anthem.
The initial anti-Britain protest was a significant act of resistance and unity with anti-government protesters after weeks of violent protests in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in September.
As the players sang the anthem before their game against Wales, the television broadcast of the game showed images of distraught Iranian fans in the crowd at Qatar’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Iran striker Mehdi Taremi said ahead of the side’s second World Cup game that the players had not been pressured by the government to sing the anthem after their protest against England.
“I have said before that I will not answer such questions, but this time I will answer,” Taremi said on the eve of the Wales game.
“We’re not under any pressure. At a football tournament, football journalists must be respected and everything that has nothing to do with football must be left out.”
Before kick-off, it was reported that Iranian fans had confiscated signs reading “Woman, Life, Freedom” – the slogan of the country’s protest movement – from police inside the stadium.
There were also reports of pro-government fans harassing anti-government fans outside the stadium in Qatar.
According to the Associated Press, small mobs of men angrily chanted “Islamic Republic of Iran” at women giving interviews to foreign media about the protests.
Many female fans were visibly shaken as Iranian government supporters surrounded them with national flags and filmed them on their cellphones.
Loud fighting broke out outside the security checkpoint at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, with fans yelling “Women, Life, Freedom” and others shouting back “The Islamic Republic.”
Includes reports from AP