The families of Iranian soccer players at the World Cup in Qatar have been threatened with torture and jail by their own country’s government if they fail to follow pre-match rules ahead of a tense final group game against the United States on Tuesday.
A source told CNN that a meeting between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) and the 26 footballers was called after the starting XI who faced England on November 21 refused to sing the Iranian national anthem before the start of the match.
Players have been told their families will be subjected to “violence and torture” if they remain silent during pre-match rituals and join groups protesting the Islamic Republic regime.
Last Friday, Iranian players sang their country’s anthem ahead of a 2-0 win over Wales.
After the match, a dozen IRGC officers were assigned to monitor Iran’s entire World Cup squad and coaching staff, who cannot interact with strangers and people outside their base.
The families of Iranian soccer players at the World Cup in Qatar have been threatened with torture and jail by their own country’s government ahead of their latest Group B match against the United States
Iranian players stand during their national anthem ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Group B football match between England and Iran at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
“There are a large number of Iranian security agents in Qatar collecting information and monitoring players,” the source told CNN.
Iran coach Carlos Quieroz, who is Portuguese, held a separate meeting with IRGC officials after they threatened his team’s players and their families, the sources added.
Queiroz has previously said Iranian players are within their rights to protest at the World Cup, if they still meet FIFA standards.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has backed his players’ right to protest at a major tournament
Iranian players must win or draw against USA to qualify for Round of 16
They were promised ‘gifts and cars’ ahead of a 6-2 loss to England, the source told CNN, but the government changed tack after feeling embarrassed to see none of the players singing proudly the country’s national anthem.
“In the last game against Wales, the regime sent in hundreds of these actor supporters in order to create a false sense of support and favor among the fans. For the next game against the United States, the regime plans to dramatically increase the number of players by the thousands,” the source said.
The team’s silence in the first round of Group B matches came after months of protests against the Iranian government following the death on September 16 of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been detained by police in the customs of the country.
The protests have seen at least 450 people killed since they began, along with more than 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group that tracks the protests.
Iran has not released casualty or arrest figures for months and alleges without providing evidence that the protests were fomented by its enemies abroad, including the United States.
Tehran is also restricting media access and has detained more than 63 journalists and photographers since the protests began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, making coverage of the unrest all the more difficult.
Members of Iran’s riot police wave national flags as fans take to the streets to celebrate their football team’s victory over Wales
A draw or loss on Tuesday (kick-off 2 p.m. EST) would eliminate the Americans, who tied Wales 1-1 and England 0-0. England lead Group B with four points, followed by Iran with three, the United States with two and Wales with one.
In unusual pre-game press conferences on Monday, USMNT captain Tyler Adams was asked to defend America’s treatment of black people and was chastised for uttering the opponent “Aye -ran” instead of “E-ran”.
US coach Gregg Berhalter was asked about US immigration and naval policy and apologized for the US Soccer Federation’s decision to remove the Islamic Republic’s emblem from the Iranian flag on social media.
The USSF flag decision was intended to support female protesters in Iran.
The United States World Cup Twitter account has left many Iranians upset after referring to the country without the Islamic Republic emblem on its flag on social media
“We had no idea what US Soccer released,” Berhalter said. “All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and staff.”
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was asked about Sunday’s flag waving, which prompted Iran’s soccer governing body to ask FIFA to expel the United States from the tournament. He said he had no intention of using controversy as motivation.
“If after 42 years in this game as a coach I still believe I could win games with these mental games, I think I haven’t learned anything about the game,” he said.
“We stand in solidarity with humanitarian causes around the world, whoever or who they are,” he added. “If you’re talking about human rights, racism, children being shot to death in schools, we stand in solidarity with all those causes, but our mission here is to make people smile for at least 90 minutes.”