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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Coach Iran and women’s rights clash with English journalist at press conference

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Four days before the start of the World Cup (November 20 with the game between Qatar and Ecuador) the controversies remain endless, especially for non-football issues. So much so that FIFA invited participants not to take positions on political issues, and even banned Denmark from wearing a training shirt with references to human rights.

Nevertheless, the row between the coach of Iran, the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, and an English journalist from Sky Sport UK present at the press conference is causing a stir. Indeed, Iran will be England’s first opponent at this World Cup, on Monday 21 November. “Are you comfortable with this World Cup representing a country like Iran that suppresses women’s rights?” asked the England correspondent.

Queiroz’s reply was sarcastic: ‘How much are you paying me to answer such a question? Don’t put words in my mouth that I didn’t say, I was just asking how much your network would pay me to answer such a question? Okay”. And it didn’t stop there. Because before leaving the press room, Queiroz added: “I think you should start thinking about what happened in your country with immigrationhow immigrants are treated in England”. The one made by Iran’s coach is a reference to Brexit.

Who has also called up Sardar Azmoun for this World Cup (the Bayer Leverkusen striker will almost certainly miss coach Gareth Southgate’s debut against the national side due to a calf problem), one of the players openly critical of the regime in Tehran. The “Persian Messi” – who is also inspired by Ibrahimovic – had in recent weeks spoken out in favor of the various demonstrations in the country provoked by the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, “guilty” of not wearing the veil regularly.

Shortly before, Queiroz had ensured that the Persian national team players would still have the right to demonstrate if they wanted to: «Iran follows the spirit of the game and the rules of FIFA. Everyone has the right to speak out or get down on their knees at competitions, but some agree and others don’t. In Iran it is exactly the same. But on the field, the players only think about the dream of getting through the group».

Of course, in addition to Azmoun, there will also be comrades who in turn have come forward from September for a completely different Iran. It is not certain that those in Qatar will be their last matches with the national team, but it is a hypothesis that cannot be ruled out, because it already happened in 1984 (Habib Habiri was even tortured and killed) and in 2009, when Mehdi Mahdavikia, who has now resigned as Under-23 coach, was left out of the squad for support for the opponent of the then president, the ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad.

That said, Azmoun, of Turkmen descent, Sunni in a country with a predominantly Shiite majority, is a strong voice in the locker room, but in some ways few expected such a clear attitude from him. Which in any case did not cost him the summons to Qatar (arrived in Tehran after midnight on Sunday, a few hours after the cancellation – with the microphones and cameras at the ready – of the press conference that was to announce the list).

Coach Queiroz dreams of progressing in the group (in addition to England he will challenge Wales and the United States) and will try to achieve this historic goal by isolating the team from non-football issues.

Source: Corriere

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