Van Gaal attacks FIFA armband stance

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said questions must be asked about whether FIFA has behaved correctly in the row over anti-discrimination armbands at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Dutch, who opened their Group A campaign with a 2-0 victory over African champions Senegalwere one of seven European nations who dropped plans to wear the rainbow-coloured ‘OneLove’ bands after FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions.

The teams instead wore ‘No Discrimination’ armbands as part of an official campaign, leading to criticism of FIFA for again appearing to protect the sensitivities of hosts Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

Cody Gakpo heads home the Netherlands opener late in the game

Van Gaal, who has previously been scathing about the decision to host the finals in the Gulf state, said on Monday night: “I don’t want to answer political questions, but one thing is clear – we’re not going to wear an armband if we are going to get a yellow card.

“We need to ask if this is a correct act on behalf of FIFA. All of us need to ask if this is a proper act – this is crystal clear.”

FIFA said on Monday that some fans were having difficulty accessing their tickets for England‘s opening match against Iran after reports that hundreds of spectators were still in line outside the venue ahead of kick-off.

“Some spectators are currently experiencing an issue with accessing their tickets via the FIFA Ticketing app,” world soccer’s governing body said in a statement. “FIFA is working on solving the issue.”

A Reuters witness outside Khalifa International Stadium in Doha said that only a handful of spectators were still seeking assistance in obtaining their tickets 15 minutes after kick-off in the Group B clash.

Iran’s players did not sing the national anthem

Players of Iran‘s national soccer team chose not to sing their country’s anthem at their opening World Cup match against England on Monday, in an apparent show of support for protesters back home.

The players were silent as the anthem was played at the Khalifa International Stadium, where Iranian fans gathered in the stands shouted as the music was played. Some were seen making thumbs-down gestures.

More than two months of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police, are one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian state television, during its live broadcast, censored the footage of the players lining up before the match as the anthem was played.

The squad has lost fans back home, however, with many people accusing them of siding with a violent state crackdown on protesters, including women and children, who are seeking the fall of the Islamic Republic.

The soccer team, historically a huge source of national pride, had been a point of focus in Iran in the run-up to the World Cup, with anticipation over whether players would use soccer’s showpiece event as a platform to show solidarity with the protesters.

On the eve of the match, captain Ehsan Hajsafi, who plays in Greece, became the first member of the Iranian team to speak out from the World Cup on the situation at home, saying “we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them.”

Players Karim Ansarifard and Morteza Pouraliganji chose not to answer questions on Friday about solidarity with women in Iran, while midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of Dutch club Feyenoord, suggested such questions were a ploy to distract the team.

Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a sickening clash of heads with Majid Hosseini

The decision to let Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand play on after a head-on collision with a team-mate against England has been branded an “utter disgrace” by brain injury charity Headway.

Beiranvand had got a hand to a Harry Kane cross in the sides’ World Cup opener in Doha on Monday but in doing so collided face first with team-mate Majid Hosseini and was in need of treatment for several minutes.

Incredibly, Beiranvand was allowed to play on despite the clash of heads leaving him with a bloody nose.

Moments later, however, the former Royal Antwerp stopper was carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by Hossein Hosseini.

Luke Griggs, Headway’s interim chief executive, could not believe what he was witnessing.

He said in a statement issued to the PA news agency: “It is an utter disgrace that the Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand was allowed to stay on the pitch.

“It was irrelevant that he came off a minute later, he shouldn’t have stayed on for a second, let alone a minute.

“He was clearly distressed and unfit to continue, this seems to be another case of the decision being made by the player and not medical staff.

“This was the first test of the FIFA World Cup concussion protocol and it was an abject failure.”

The Professional Footballers’ Association said it was “devastating” for Beiranvand to have to come off so early in a World Cup but added: “We have seen a clear example, on the world’s biggest stage, of the current concussion protocols not being applied under match pressure.”

FIFA has yet to comment on the incident.

Additional reporting: PA

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