Iran’s players covered up their national symbols by wearing jackets before the friendly with Senegal on Tuesday evening, showing solidarity with protests against the repression of women in their home country.
The past 11 days have seen significant unrest in Iran after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested on 13 September on suspicion of violating the strict law that requires women to cover their hair with a hijab. There have been widespread protests and before their match in Maria Enzersdorf, a town just outside Vienna, the national team made their anger visible.
Carlos Queiroz’s team wore black jackets while the national anthems were played, concealing their country’s colours and badge. The match was played behind closed doors by edict of Iran’s football association, which held the rights to the fixture, but a sizeable number of demonstrators gathered outside in an effort to make their voices heard on television feeds.
On Sunday the influential Iran forward Sardar Azmoun had spoken out in support of the protests via his Instagram account. “At worst I’ll be dismissed from the national team,” wrote the Bayern Leverkusen player. “No problem. I’d sacrifice that for one hair on the heads of Iranian women. This story will not be deleted. They can do whatever they want. Shame on you for killing so easily; long live Iranian women.”
Azmoun, who scored in the 1-1 draw against Senegal and is expected to be a key player for Iran in the World Cup in Qatar, deleted the post but published a new, less strongly worded entry on Wednesday morning in support of Iranian women. He has joined a number of teammates in blacking out the profile pictures on his Instagram and Twitter accounts. Last week another national team player, Zobeir Niknafs, produced an Instagram video in which he shaved his head in solidarity with the protests.
Gareth Southgate and his assistant, Steve Holland, were among those allowed inside to watch the game. England begin their World Cup campaign against Iran on 21 November.