HomeWorld NewsPolitics precedes England's match against Iran in the World Cup

Politics precedes England’s match against Iran in the World Cup


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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The political situation at home has been a regular question for Iran ahead of the Group B opener against England at the World Cup.

Large swaths of people in the country have risen up to protest for women’s rights following the death of Mahsa Amini while in detention for allegedly violating rules regarding head coverings.

On Sunday, a journalist from Iran decided to ask England manager Gareth Southgate about British policy, mentioning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I understand your team’s frustration with the questions,” Southgate said, referring to the near-constant inquiries about the unrest in Iran. “It is a very difficult situation. And believe me, our media has been asking me a lot of political questions on a lot of issues for six years, so we’re both in the same boat on that.

“I understand that in the position I’m in, I have a responsibility to answer some of those questions.”

Iran captain Ehsan Hajisafi also had to face political issues on Sunday. He paused before giving a considered answer.

“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and that our people are not happy,” Hajisafi said. “We are here, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be their voice or that we shouldn’t respect them.

“Whatever we are is theirs. We have to fight. We have to do our best and score goals and present the results to the grieving people of Iran. And I hope that conditions change towards people’s expectations.”

The protests have seen prominent former players Ali Daei and Javad Nekounam say they have turned down an invitation from FIFA to attend the World Cup.

Actor and comedian Omid Djalili, born in London to Iranian parents, said Iran should be banned from the tournament and called on the England players to make a statement in support of the protesters.

She took to Twitter to ask players scoring a goal against Iran to fake cutting their hair, which has been adopted by women in the country as a sign of defiance against mandatory hijab rules.

“My message to the England players right now is that they have the opportunity to make a very, very small gesture to have a massive global impact,” he said. “I think the players from England, Wales and the USA, when they score, if you just make this simple statement of hair, short, that sends a great message to the women and girls of Iran.”

Southgate, who led England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and last year’s Euro final, addressed the issue of football’s healing power when he said he wants to bring joy to the nation amid the rising cost of life in Britain.

“Look, our challenge is to give our fans a tournament that is memorable,” he said. “We’ve taken them on fantastic trips in our last two tournaments, and we want to bring them (them in another).

“Our country is also going through a difficult time, not like other countries in the world right now, but we are in the middle of an economic recession and life has been difficult for many of our people. So, we want them to enjoy their football and have a trip with the team that brings them true happiness.”


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson


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