Team Iran lost 1-0 to Team USA on Tuesday, getting eliminated from the 2022 World Cup.
The team was gracious in defeat, shaking hands with American players after the devastating loss. That was classy.
But what was not classy — instead, horrifying — was what happened to Iran’s players before the game, and what might happen to them post-loss.
Iran threatened the families of the players with “imprisonment and torture” if the players didn’t “behave” ahead of the match, a source told CNN.
After the players stood mute during the anthem in their opening match against England, the source said players were called to a meeting with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The players were informed that their families would face “violence and torture” if they snubbed the anthem again, the source told CNN.
The alleged threats came after Iran’s players refused to sing their anthem in what was a silent protest after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten to death while in police custody for failing to properly wear a hijab.
Amini’s death set off weeks of violent protests. The Islamic Republic deployed security forces to quash what it called “riots,” and Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh of the IRGC said Tuesday that 300 people had died in the protests, CBS News reported.
But the Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran says more than 450 protesters have died in the protests, including 64 children. The group also says more than 18,000 people have been detained in more than 1,100 protests in 157 cities.
— HRANA English (@HRANA_English) November 28, 2022
After the game, there were more reports that Iran’s soccer team faced punishment for the loss.
Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, told the New York Post that the players are now in an “untenable position.” “Given what we’ve seen from the Iranian regime … they’ve shown themselves to be brutal and there’s no reason to believe they’re going to suddenly become rational,” Baker said.
Let’s step back a second. This is a soccer game. While the World Cup is being held in Qatar, another egregious violator of human rights, citizens from every nation strive to put politics aside and enjoy the friendly rivalry of sports.
“Now, the Iranian team could face fines or even arrest in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat once they arrive home — as retaliation for their disloyalty and their failure to beat the enemy,” Baker told the Post.
“Neither is good if you’re an Iranian player upon returning home,” he added.
In another twist, protesters in Iran cheered the country’s defeat, celebrating in Tehran and other cities as a blow to the ruling regime.
“I am happy, this is the government losing to the people,” one person told CNN after Iran’s defeat.
“People in Paveh are celebrating Iran’s national team lose over America in World Cup in Qatar, they are chanting ‘Down with Jash [traitors],'” Hengaw, a Norway-based human rights group, posted on social media.
Of course, there will be little way to track the well-being of Iran’s players and their family members as their society censors social media. But somehow, we’ll find out. Remember that, Iran.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.