Families of Iran’s World Cup soccer team face the threat of imprisonment and torture if players fail to “perform” ahead of Tuesday’s game against the United States, a source involved in Olympic security said.
Following Iranian players’ refusal to sing the national anthem in their opening game against England on November 21, sources said the players were asked to meet members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
They were told their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the national anthem or take part in any political protests against the regime in Tehran, the sources said.
The players sang the national anthem ahead of Friday’s second game against Wales, which Iran won 2-0.
Dozens of officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been called in to monitor Iranian players, who are not allowed to mingle outside the team or meet with foreigners, according to sources closely following Iranian security agencies operating in Qatar during the World Cup.
“Qatar has a large number of Iranian security agents collecting information and monitoring the players,” the source said.
Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese coach of the Iranian national team, met separately with IRGC officials after the Iranian players and their families were threatened, the source said.
The source did not say what the alleged conversation was about. Queiroz has said that Iranian players can protest at the World Cup, but only within the limits set by FIFA.
The players were promised “gifts and cars” ahead of the game against England, sources said, but authorities turned to threatening the players and their families after the team’s disgrace for refusing to sing the national anthem, the source said.
“In the last game against Wales, the authorities sent hundreds of such cast supporters in order to create an illusion of support and favor among the fans. For the next game against the United States, the regime plans to significantly increase the That increased to thousands,” the source said.
Iran and the United States will play a crucial match in Group B on Tuesday.
Iran is coming to this World Cup under the shadow of domestic turmoil. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said the country was in a “full-blown human rights crisis” as authorities cracked down on anti-regime dissent.
Protests in Iran enter third month as regime steps up deadly crackdown
The protests, described by experts as the most significant since the establishment of clerical rule after the 1979 revolution, have rocked Iran in recent months and threatened the country’s regime that has ruled the country for more than four decades.
The movement was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police for allegedly failing to abide by the country’s conservative dress code. Iranian security forces responded violently.
Iranian state media called for the United States to be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday after the U.S. Soccer Association changed the Iranian flag on its social media platforms in support of Iranian protesters.
The federation has temporarily displayed the Iranian flag on its official Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, but not the Islamic Republic’s coat of arms. A now-deleted image of the Group B standings released on Saturday showed only green, white and red on the Iranian flag.
The U.S. Soccer Federation told CNN on Sunday that it wanted to replace the official flag within 24 hours to show “support for Iranian women’s struggle for basic human rights,” but always planned to restore the original flag.
US Soccer told CNN that the change “was a one-off graphic”. “We have the main flag on our website and elsewhere.” The logo is currently reappearing on the banner of US Soccer’s social media channels.
A State Department spokesman told CNN that the U.S. Soccer Association’s decision to change the Iranian flag on its social media accounts to show support for Iranian protesters was not coordinated with U.S. Soccer.