The starting 11 lineup who is playing in Iran’s first World Cup game against England did not sing the national anthem ahead of kickoff at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar on Monday.
Outside the stadium, before the game, CNN witnessed a number of Iran supporters wearing protest t-shirts, with slogans such as “Free Iran” or “Rise with the women of Iran.”
Some were reluctant to speak, fearing that regime spotters were monitoring them in the crowd, but Iranian-born Sam Mohsen and Venus Vanaki, who now reside in California, told CNN that they hoped the players would send them a sign that they were in solidarity with the protesters, and that would begin with them not singing their anthem.
As the anthem played over the stadium loudspeakers, and the players remained tight lipped, a large contingent of Iranian supporters appeared to be jubilant, cheering throughout.
Remember: As anti-government protests entered a third month back in their home country just on the other side of the Persian Gulf, speculation had been mounting about how the players would handle the situation. In recent weeks, many other athletes have spoken out in support of the demonstrators, and several sports teams had refrained from singing the anthem.