Families of Iran’s World Cup players threatened ahead of US match if they don’t ‘behave’: report

The Islamic Republic of Iran has threatened the families of the country’s World Cup soccer team with imprisonment and torture if the players fail to “behave” ahead of a high-profile match against the USA on Tuesday.

That’s according to CNN, which cited a source involved in the security of the games. The development came after Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem in an opening match against England last week.

Iran has been facing unrest a home since the death of a 22-year-old woman after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for improperly wearing her hijab, and the Iranian soccer team has supported the protests.

“Conditions in our country are not right, and our people are not happy,” Iranian team captain Ehsan Hajsafi told reporters after the game, before voicing support for families who have lost loved ones during the protests —  Iranian security forces have killed at least 326 people since protests erupted two months ago, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO.

“I would like to express my condolences to all the bereaved families,” he said. “They should know we are with them, we support them and we sympathize with them.”

After the match with England, which Iran lost 6-2, players were called to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to CNN’s source.

“The source said that they were told that their families would face ‘violence and torture’ if they did not sing the national anthem or if they joined any political protest against the Tehran regime,” the network reported.

The players sang the anthem before their next game against Wales played on Friday.

Dozens of Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers are monitoring the Iranian players, the source said, and the players are not allowed to venture outside the squad or meet with foreigners.

“There are a large number of Iranian security officers in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players,” the source told CNN.

After first being promised “presents and cars,” players were then threatened after the humiliating refusal to sing their national anthem.

“In the last game against Wales, the regime sent over hundreds of these actor supporters in order to create a false sense of support and favor amongst the fans. For the next game against the U.S, the regime is planning to significantly increase the number of actors into the thousands,” the source said.

Tuesday’s match is in the afternoon and tensions are already high.

On Sunday, Iranian state media called for the U.S. World Cup soccer team to be booted from the 2022 tournament in Qatar after the United States Soccer Federation altered the Iranian flag in an image by removing the iconic Islamic Republic emblem, CNBC reported.

The Iranian state media agency Tasnim responded by calling for the U.S. team to be kicked out of the tournament.

“By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty. Team should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022,” read a tweet from the media agency’s official Twitter account.

United States men’s national soccer team head coach Gregg Berhalter said the team “had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out.”

“All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff, but it’s not something that we are part of,” Berhalter told reporters.

U.S. team captain Tyler Adams was grilled about “representing a country that has so much discrimination against black people” by an Iranian reporter who told Adams he mispronounced “Iran.”

The team caption earned widespread praise for how he handled the question.

“My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country,” Adams said. “That being said, there’s discrimination everywhere you go. One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilating to different cultures, is that in the U.S. we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”

Tom Tillison


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