Iranian Players End National Anthem Silence at World Cup Vs. Wales

Iranian Players End National Anthem Silence at World Cup Vs. Wales originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Iranian players sang their country’s national anthem ahead of their World Cup match against Wales on Friday, just four days after they stayed silent in an apparent act of support for protesters in Iran.

Though the players were singing, there were a variety of emotional reactions from spectators inside Ahmad bin Ali Stadium. Many booed and whistled during the playing of the national anthem, while others were in tears.

Players were met with criticism from Iranian officials after their act during the team’s World Cup opener against England on Monday.

“We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag,” Mehdi Chamran, the chairman of Tehran city council, said on Tuesday (h/t The Guardian). “Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years, this civilization is as old as the total of European and American civilizations.”

On Thursday, former national team member Voria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the national soccer team and propagandizing against the government.” Ghafouri first played for Iran’s senior squad in 2014 and recently called for an end to the violent response to protests in the country’s western Kurdistan region.

Protests erupted in Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the country’s morality police in September. Those protests have been met with violence, as more than 400 people have been killed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran.