First Iranian soccer player publicly supports protests at World Cup: ‘We are with them, we support them’

In a courageous and perilous move, Iranian World Cup player Ehsan Hajsafi has publicly come out in support of anti-government protesters in his country, asserting that soccer players should be the voice of those suffering.

(Video Credit: BeanymanNews)

Hajsafi is the first member of his team to speak out at the World Cup after more than two months of protests in Iran that were ignited by the death of a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police after being arrested for wearing clothes deemed “inappropriate.”

It is one of the strongest uprisings in the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran, of course, is blaming foreign enemies for the crisis.

Iran’s soccer team is being watched very closely at the World Cup in Qatar with the world holding its breath waiting to see whether players will speak up in solidarity with protesters.

“They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions,” Hajsafi, who plays for the Greek team AEK Athens, boldly stated at a news conference.

“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he asserted. “We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we should not respect them.”

“Whatever we have is from them and we have to fight, we have to perform the best we can and score goals and represent the people,” Hajsafi said. “I hope conditions change as to expectations of the people.”

A number of Iranian athletes have made gestures that many interpret as support for the protesters, including refusing to sing the national anthem and not participating in victories on the field, according to the Daily Mail.

HRANA, which is an activist news agency, is reporting that as of Friday, 410 protesters had been killed in the protests, including 58 minors.

Other members of the Iranian team are refusing to discuss politics in the public forum. Players Karim Ansarifard and Morteza Pouraliganji would not answer questions on Friday concerning solidarity with women in Iran, the Daily Mail reports.

Midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who plays for the Dutch club Feyenoord, intimated that the questions were meant to distract the team.

“I’m not surprised you are asking this question,” he remarked, according to the media outlet. “I assume you’re from the English media. To be honest, I’m not sure if England wasn’t in our group you would have come with this question, firstly. And secondly, we have been facing this already for a couple of weeks with all the English media – this was all the headlines as we get closer to the World Cup, whatever the reason is.”

Coach Carlos Queiroz brazenly stated he would have to be paid to talk about the explosive situation in Iran.

“How much you pay me to answer that question? You are a private company, how much you pay me?” the Portuguese coach asked according to the Daily Mail. “Talk with your boss and at the end of the World Cup I can give you the answer if you make me a good offer.”

Former England international and ITV pundit Ian Wright gave an emotional on-air monologue concerning his “conflicted feelings” at covering the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

“[I feel] very conflicted if I am being totally honest. When I got to the airport on Saturday, seeing the fans singing you start to feel what is going to happen. Then you simply have to stop yourself because you know what has happened, you’ve seen the cities and how quickly they went up and you know that people have died building those stadiums. Then you think of the families, lives destroyed, families destroyed, and then you think of the compensation, the lack of commitment towards the victims,” he commented, according to the Daily Mail.

“Then I think about it and I have to think about back home in my own country, you think about the Windrush generation and the fact that 80% of them not being paid and people have died waiting. When you are pointing the finger you are pointing three at yourself but at the same time all you want for these people is for them to be compensated and get the justice they deserve,” he added.

Qatari officials claim that only three workers have died during World Cup preparations but independent sources have charged there have been more than 6,000 fatalities.

Iran will begin its World Cup campaign against England on Monday.

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