By Biodun Busari

Iranian players refused to sing the country’s national anthem before their FIFA World Cup opening match against England on Monday.

This could not be unconnected with the mass protests that have been going down in the country since September 17.

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The unrest in Iran began when a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died while in the custody of the morality police.

This has led to widespread demonstrations in Iran as protesting citizens demand the removal of President Ebrahim Raisi.

More than 200 civilians have died in the violence as security agents continue to resist the masses protesting.

In what seemed like solidarity for the masses back at home, the players in Qatar decided not to open their mouths to sing the national anthem as it was officially played in the stadium.

Meanwhile, this was not the first time the team would show support for the protesters on the pitch. In late September, they opted to wear black jackets to cover the country’s colours in their friendly against Senegal.

Before flying out to Doha for the World Cup, the team met with President Raisi but the meeting did not go down well with protesters, and banners of the team were burned on the eve of the tournament.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the captain of Iran’s football team, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, refused to confirm if his team would sing the anthem.

“That’s something that also has to be decided about in the team, which we already talked about and obviously everybody’s talking about,” Jahanbakhsh said.

Also, on Sunday, defender Ehsan Hajsafi became the first Iranian player at the World Cup to publicly speak out in support of the protests.

“They should know that we are with them and we support them and we sympathise with them regarding the conditions,” he said.

England beat Iran 6-2 in their opening match at The Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar.

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