Iran players have sung the national anthem ahead of their crucial FIFA World Cup clash against Wales, as some fans were pictured in tears and others jeered and whistled in the stands.
- Iran players sang the national anthem against Wales, after remaining silent in the match against England
- Pre-game, supporters clashed outside the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Qatar
- Some fans said stadium security removed items with messages in support of the protest movement
The emotional scenes inside the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium came after some ugly scenes outside, as pro- and anti-government fans clashed.
Some Iran fans confiscated Persian pre-revolutionary Iranian flags from others and shouted insults at those wearing shirts with the slogan of the country’s protest movement, “Woman, Life, Freedom”.
Small mobs of men angrily chanted “The Islamic Republic of Iran” at women giving interviews about the protests to foreign media outside the stadium.
Shouting matches broke out outside the security checkpoint with some fans screaming, “Women, Life, Freedom” and others shouting, “The Islamic Republic”.
Many female fans were visibly shaken as Iranian government supporters surrounded them with national flags and filmed them on their phones.
One 35-year-old woman named Maryam, who like other Iran fans declined to give her last name for fear of government reprisals, started to cry as shouting men blowing horns surrounded her and filmed her face up close. She had the words “Woman Life Freedom” painted on her face.
Another woman named Vanya, 21, who lives in Qatar, said she was terrified to ever go back to Iran after what she experienced outside the stadium on Friday. “I’m genuinely afraid for my safety here,” she said.
A group of fans wearing hats emblazoned with the name of the former Iran player Voria Ghafori, who was arrested in Iran on Thursday, said they had their hats stolen by government supporters.
“It’s obvious that the match had become very politicized this week. You can see people from the same country who hate each other,” said Mustafa, a 40-year-old Iran fan.
“I think the arrest of Voria has also affected society in Iran a lot.”
Some fans said stadium security removed items with messages in support of the protest movement.
Ayeh Shams from the United States, who was at the game with her brother, said security guards confiscated her flag because it had the word “women” on it.
“We’re first generation American. Our parents were born in Iran. We’re just here to enjoy the games and give a platform for the Iranian people who are fighting against the Islamic regime,” Shams said.
Some anti-government fans waved signs in support of the protest movement at Iran’s first match against England earlier this week.
Before that match, Iran’s players remained silent as their national anthem played. On Friday, they sang along.
Two late goals give Iran hope
On the pitch, Iran scored twice after the eighth minute of stoppage time to snatch a stunning 2-0 win over Wales that breathed new life into their World Cup campaign.
After Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 87th minute, Iran produced a remarkable finale, with Roozbeh Cheshmi driving home to give them the lead before Ramin Rezaeian added another in the 11th minute of stoppage time.
Iran, who had been facing elimination if they lost, were almost unrecognizable as the side that was thrashed 6-2 by England in their opener, and they were deserved winners even if they left it very late.
Carlos Queiroz’s side were twice denied by the woodwork in the second half at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium and made the most of the extra man after Hennessey was given his marching orders following a dreadful head-high challenge on Mehdi Taremi.
The win moves Iran to three points in Group B, two more than Wales, who were held to a 1-1 draw by the United States in their opener.
Wales now face a make-or-break decider against England, where a win against their bitter rivals may still not be enough for them to qualify for the last 16.