‘Focus on the UK immigrant crisis’: Iran coach claps back at reporter

Seeded in Group B alongside the United States, Wales, and England, Iran will kick-start their first 2022 FIFA World Cup group stage game on 21 November.

Iran’s national team coach responded to an ‘accusatory’ question from a UK-based reporter with a reminder of his own country’s human rights violations.

During a press conference in Qatar ahead of the World Cup kick-off, a Sky News reporter asked Iran team manager Carlos Queiroz if he is “okay representing a country like Iran at this World Cup that represses the rights of women?”

“How much you pay me to answer to that question?” Queiroz responded, asking the reporter to identify his employer.

“Talk to your boss and at the end of the World Cup I can give you the answer if you make me a good offer, thank you […] Don’t put in my mouth words that I don’t say. I’m asking to your company how much money to answer to that question.”

As he stood up to exit the presser, Queiroz gave a last minute clap back telling the journalist to focus on the UK migrant crisis.

“I think you should start to think about what happened with the immigrants in England also,” the Portuguese manager said.

“Go think about that,” he said before leaving the room.

The English Channel is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Southern England from northern France.

Since 2014, 205 migrants have been reported dead or missing in the English Channel while heading to the UK and 25,271 have been reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Separately, the 69-year-old coach also said that Iran’s players are free to participate in the nationwide women’s rights protests that have blanketed their home country while they are competing in the World Cup in Qatar, but they must do so in accordance with the tournament’s regulations.

Heading Iran for a third time at a World Cup, Carlos Queiroz said “everybody has the right to express themselves” given they follow the FIFA rules.

In reference to athletes who protest against racial inequality in England, he said: “you guys bend your knees in the games,” adding that “some people agree, some people don’t agree with that, and Iran is exactly the same,” according to reports.

Iran has been rocked by protests for nearly two months now, which started after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody, distorting Iran’s World Cup attention.

Since the outbreak of protests across the Islamic Republic, athletes, including football players in the local league and in international competitions, have refused to celebrate victories, prizes, and goals.

Iran’s national team, Team Melli, on 27 September made clear its solidarity with the most recent protests in the Islamic Republic during a friendly with Senegal in Maria Enzersdorf, a town just outside Vienna.

Standing arm in arm on the pitch, the players wore plain black jackets to cover their national symbols as the national anthem was played at the stadium.

The team’s forward Sardar Azmoun spoke out on the decision to protest the government’s brutal crackdown on his social media page, saying it is worth any consequences that may arise.

“At worst, I’ll be dismissed from the national team. 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 wrote.

Elsewhere, Iranian beach football player, Saeed Piramoon, mimicked cutting his hair after scoring in the Emirates Intercontinental Beach Footbal Cup final, showing brazen support for the demonstrations sweeping his home country.

The gesture reflected the ongoing movement by many individuals cutting their hair to testify their solidarity with Iranian women.

Team Melli in Qatar

The 25-person Iranian World Cup team was recently announced by Queiroz, marking their sixth FIFA debut this year.

The squad also included the vocal Sardar Azmoun as a forward in Team Melli, who had been injured while playing for Leverkusen in early October, but medical professionals are optimistic he healed in time for Qatar 2022.

Seeded in Group B alongside the United States, Wales, and England, Iran will kick-start their first 2022 FIFA World Cup group stage game on 21 November.

Standing at 20th position on FIFA Men’s ranking list, Iran is also the top Asian team in the FIFA rankings, above Japan and South Korea.

“I think Iran and Japan are most likely among Asian teams with the ability to pass the group stage of the World Cup,” Iran’s newly re-appointed Portuguese coach, told Iranian media in October.

The team’s previous FIFA World Cup appearances dates back to 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, and 2018, with their biggest victory residing over their game against the United States back in 1998 with a 2-1 win.

Iran and the US have not since met on the football field, but will do so at this year’s FIFA World Cup.

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