Soccer  

‘Stay at home’ if you can’t support team

DOHA,Qatar — Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has told the country’s fans to “stay at home” if they cannot support the team after boos were heard from supporters in Monday’s 6-2 defeat to England.

Several members of the Iran squad have received criticism leading up to the tournament for not openly speaking out against the country’s government amid nationwide protests, and players were jeered by their own fans during the Group B opener.

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On Monday, all 11 players took a different stance, and decided not to sing the country’s national anthem prior to kick off at the Khalifa International Stadium in a perceived show of support for protesters in Iran, a situation sparked two months ago by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in ‘morality police custody.’

Amini died after being arrested in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code and the nationwide fury has left the Iran team in the midst of a political storm as the World Cup begins in Qatar.

Queiroz, who managed Iran at two World Cups during an initial eight-year stint between 2011 and 2019 before returning earlier this year, said after the game: “In 2014, 2018, we had full support from the fans. And now you saw what happened today.

“That’s why my duty, it is probably to invite the fans who are here already to support the team or they should stay home. Why did they come here to be against the team. We don’t need them.

“It’s much better they stay home. To have fans who only support the team when we are winning, we don’t need them. It’s something that the players can feel when they are playing.”

Queiroz appeared to seek to clarify those initial comments later in his postmatch news conference, adding: “When I make the comment about Iranians, of course all Iranians in the stadium are all welcome. They have the right to be pleased or criticise the team, that is not a problem.

“Those that come to disturb the team with the issues that are not only about football opinions, they are not welcome because our boys are just simple football boys.

“They represent a country. I had the privilege to work in England, Portugal, many places and I know the passion of the game in England, Portugal, Spain and Brazil. Iran is not a fake country of football that you need to build up fake situations.

“The passion of football is all over the place. These kids, they have one dream: to play football., It is not their fault the World Cup happens in this moment.

“You don’t even imagine behind the scenes what these kids they have been living in the last few days just because they want to play football, just because they want to express themselves as footballers.

“Whatever they do whatever they say, they want to kill them. Can you imagine at one stage of your life, whatever you say or do or think, you are killed? They only have one hope. Let them represent the country, play for the people, everybody represents the people here.”

ESPN FC’s Gabriel Tan contributed to this report.