The Iranian team celebrates after its win against Wales on November 25, 2022

Is Iran's Real National Team In Qatar, Or Back Home?

Monday, 11/28/2022

Many Iranians believe the football team in Qatar is not their national team, but belongs to a dictatorial regime that is ready to use it for its political goals.

In the 1998 World Cup, the American and Iranian teams faced each other for the first time after Iran's 1979 revolution.

The match was called "the most politically charged match in World Cup history" and ended with Iran's 2-1 victory. On the day of the match, my brother came to our house with two "Iran t-shirts," one for him and one for our father, who had recently been forced to immigrate to the United States.

Even though my father had taught physics and mechanics in Iran's high schools for nearly 50 years, had written textbooks, trained young teachers, and with the cooperation of some of his friends, founded Khorazmi Schools, one of the best private schools in Iran, he was forced to leave his country during his retirement.

After all my father had done to serve his country, the newly established Islamic regime penalized him severely. The regime confiscated his schools and arrested my brother and me for our anti-regime activities. My brother Bijan, who had received a ten-year sentence from the revolutionary courts for his political activities, and had spent more than six years behind bars, suddenly was executed in the 1988 massacre of the political prisoners and the Islamic Republic refused to give us his body or tell us where he was buried. The rest of us were forced to leave the country, and my father soon had to join us.

Author's father Ghazanfar Bazargan in 1998, with her 5-day old granddaughter

My father loved sports, especially soccer, and always memorized the players' names, the games' schedules, and the results. On that historic day, when he proudly sat in front of the TV to watch the game, I asked him, "Will you support Iran's regime team in this match?" He answered, "It doesn't matter to me which team wins. Iran is my homeland, but America has sheltered me, so whoever wins, I will feel victorious."

That day, my father's answer was not convincing because I had endured pain and suffering as a woman living in an Islamic country with a gender-apartheid regime. Immediately after the revolution, I was forced to go to an all-girls segregated school instead of a "mixed elementary school." The content of schoolbooks was changed to Islamic propaganda. I was forced to wear hijab, long dresses, and wide-leg pants in dark colors to cover my body's curves. All my human rights, including the right to divorce, the right to custody of my children, the right to equal inheritance, the right to testify in court, the right to leave the country, the right to study in a series of disciplines, the right to participate in a series of sports, the right to enter sports stadiums, the right to mingle with the opposite sex, the right to run for dozens of important positions in the country, including the presidency, were taken from me.

I didn't see this soccer team as my country's team, and I hated the Islamic Regime's flag and its anthem. That day, I had no interest in the Islamic Republic team winning, but I was in the minority. The passion for soccer and the World Cup mesmerized everyone. They had forgotten that soccer and the world events are a place for dictators to validate their existence, normalize their oppressive regimes, and spread their propaganda.

Islamic Republic officials, Basij militiamen, and pro-regime activists among "Team Melli fans" in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

After 24 years, we are again at a historical moment, and on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, the teams of the Islamic Regime of Iran and the United States will face each other. In these 24 years, the regime's violence has reached a much wider range of people. If in the 1980s, the Islamic Republic committed crimes behind the walls of prisons and away from the eyes of the people, now it is shooting protesters in the streets in broad daylight, and cell phone cameras are recording these crimes.

In the 1980s, no one heard the voices of the prisoners who were executed and dumped secretly in individual or mass graves, but today we know the names of many of those killed in the recent protests. Due to access to the victims' social media accounts and because of satellite TVs and other forms of digital media, we know about the victims' interests, their lifestyles, and even the music they listened to. Many of the soccer players in the 1998 match, such as Ali Daei, Mahdi Mahdavi Kia, Karim Bagheri, Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh, etc., are standing by the people now and support the Iranian people's revolution against this brutal Regime.

Today, we should all boycott this World Cup and the Islamic regime's team, which instead of being a "national team," is an "Islamic regime team" and represents a child-killing gender apartheid political system, and hope that it will be the loser of this tournament. Every time the flag of the Islamic Republic is waved in international gatherings and its disgraceful anthem is played; it is a blow to the freedom movement of the Iranian people. In addition, the host of the World Cup, Qatar, is not qualified to host these competitions at all. Not only is it unclear how FIFA granted the hosting of this World Cup to a small country like Qatar, which has no history of football at all, but also Qatar's abuse of migrant workers, not paying their wages, the death of thousands of people during the construction of Qatar's stadiums, and discrimination against women and LGBTQ community makes this country ineligible to host the World Cup.

Although I have boycotted these games and will not watch them, I sincerely hope that the US team wins on Tuesday so that we no longer see the flag of a child-killing, gender-apartheid regime with no respect for human life and human dignity, waiving in the air.

The last victory of the Islamic regime against Wales team was celebrated by its repressive security forces in the street, the same forces that, until hours earlier, were killing innocent people with batons, guns, and bullets. The same forces that are committing crimes against humanity in Baluchistan and Kurdistan. Regime hired immigrants from other countries to cheer its team in Qatar's stadiums. It used all the intelligence capabilities and police forces of Qatar to prevent its opponents from entering the stadiums and silenced their voices. A team with this background does not deserve victory.

The real Iranian National Team is the young people willing to die in the streets for freedom and secularism. Our national team is imprisoned in Evin and other prisons in Iran. Our heroes are Nilofar Hamedi, Zainab Mousavi, Elaha Mohammadi, Hossein Ronaghi, Toomaj Salehi, Majid Tavakoli, Arash Sadeghi, Sepideh Qolian, Golrokh Iraei, Zeynab Jalali and thousands of others who are ready to give their lives for their country, for freedom of Iran, and a better tomorrow.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Iran International

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