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Iran's football players refused to sing their country’s national anthem before the team's opening match in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Monday, Nov. 21.

Players for Iran usually sing their national anthem with their right hands on their hearts ahead of international matches. However, on Monday, Nov. 21, when Iran was facing England in their opening match in the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Khalifa International Stadium, the players did not sing their national anthem. Instead, they stood in silence with their arms around each other’s shoulders, CBS News reported.

Iran’s participation in the FIFA World Cup comes during a crackdown on a nationwide women’s rights protest movement in Iran. The demonstrations were sparked after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who was detained for not properly covering her hair with a headscarf, or hijab, was killed in police custody in Iran. At least 419 protesters have been killed, including 60 children, and more than 17,000 people have been arrested so far.

Iran's team captain Ehsan Hajsafi said in a press conference before the match that his teammates would decide "collectively" whether they would take a stand during the anthem in support of the anti-government protests in Iran.

During the national anthem, Iran’s state TV cut away from the apparent demonstration and showed a wide shot of the soccer pitch instead of a closer shot of the players. Footage of the moment has gone viral on social media platforms and has been viewed millions of times, USA Today reported.

Iran’s players also did not celebrate their two goals during the match, a move that has spread in Iranian league matches since the protests started.

“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” Iran captain Ehsan Hajisafi told reporters. “We are here, but it does not mean that we should not be their voice or we should not respect them.

“Whatever we are is from them. We have to fight. We have to perform the best we can and score goals and to present the bereaved people of Iran with the results. And I hope that the conditions change towards the expectations of the people,” he added.

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