Mehdi Taremi in training
Photo: FADEL SENNA / AFP
According to his own statement, Iran's national soccer player Mehdi Taremi does not feel any influence from the regime.
"We're not under pressure," the attacker replied when asked whether the government in his home country would influence the team at the World Cup in Qatar: "I don't want to talk about political things.
We came here to play football.
I can not change anything."
Because of "all the problems, it wasn't football," said Taremi, who lost 6-2 to England with "Team Melli" at the start.
Therefore, "the World Cup is only just beginning for us," explained the FC Porto striker: "There are still six points, we want to make our fans happy."
There is "no better atmosphere to find your way back," said Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz before the second group game against Wales on Friday (11 a.m. CET/ARD and MagentaTV): "It's a great opportunity for us." The team is "back up our way" and have "fun with football" again.
Athletes are an important part of the protest movement
Queiroz' players had supported the protests in their own country before the game against England by demonstratively remaining silent during the national anthem.
Iranian state television interrupted the transmission.
After that there were fears that the players could face consequences at home.
Iran has been rocked by protests since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by the vice squad in mid-September.
The leadership brutally suppressed the protests.
More than 300 people are said to have died and more than 10,000 are in prison.
Numerous athletes also joined the protests.
While current players from the Iranian league and football legends such as former internationals Ali Daei and Ali Karimi joined the protests early on, the current internationals had long held back with expressions of solidarity.
Only Bayer Leverkusen's Sardar Azmoun had taken a clear position on the sidelines of a training camp in September.
"Shame on you how carelessly people are murdered," he wrote.
And: »Long live the Iranian women!«
The others initially did not position themselves at all or, from the point of view of the supporters, at best half-heartedly.
At home, the team was heavily criticized before the World Cup.
Fans accused the players of not at least resolutely distancing themselves from the regime's violence - if they didn't want to support the protests.
A visit to President Ebrahi Raisi shortly before leaving for Qatar caused additional trouble.
Observers assume that the players are under massive pressure because of their popularity in the population.
Some of them are followed by millions of people on social media.
From a sporting point of view, Iran needs a win against Wales this Friday to be able to reach the round of 16.