The Iranian team has come under incessant question-badgering regarding their politics back home.
An Iranian reporter has spotlighted western hypocrisy by reminding the England manager about the United Kingdom’s direct hand in the loss of innocent lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, during a press conference.
“We also could’ve asked, just as English reporters did to Queiroz, why you’re the head coach of a country that killed innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq, regarding discontent towards the Queen’s funeral costs or the harsh winter that awaiting the UK and Europe because of Russia’s war,” the reporter said, addressing Gareth Southgate on the eve of the Iran versus England match on Sunday.
Britain, under Tony Blair as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, led the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Blair has been instrumental in seeding wars elsewhere in the Middle East, including Syria and Libya.
Without expressing any regret for the millions of lives lost, the relocation of entire cities where human populations had lived in peace for generations, or the total destruction of cities, in 2018 Blair said the UK must launch military action in Syria because “non-intervention has consequences”.
The reporter then moved on from the case made to ask a question related to football and England’s match against Iran on Monday at Khalifa International Stadium.
Iranian players and officials have been target of constant political question-badgering as a result of the ongoing unrest back home.
“I understand the frustration from your team regarding the questions,” Southgate said, referring to incessant inquiries about the political situation in Iran.
“It’s a very difficult situation. And, believe me, I’ve been asked lots and lots of political questions by our media about lots of subjects for six years, so we’re both in the same situation on that.
“I understand in the position I’m in that there is a responsibility for me to answer some of those questions,” he added.
Speaking just a day ahead of the team’s opening Group B match against Iran at the World Cup, Southgate said: “We’re very respectful of our opponents tomorrow. We know the quality of the players – several of them playing at big European clubs, obviously a couple have been playing in England.”
Many online users have referred to western hypocrisy, suggesting that those with glass houses should not throw stones.
“This isn’t about pointing fingers or trying to deflect responsibility. It’s about some people being very selective about when they want to champion human rights,” one user said on Twitter.
The Iranian reporter’s comments came as Iran’s national team manager Carlos Queiroz was questioned on Iran during a press conference in Qatar ahead of the World Cup kick-off.
A Sky News reporter asked Queiroz if he is “okay representing a country like Iran at this World Cup that represses the rights of women?”
Responding to the ‘accusatory’ question, the Portuguese manager reminded the reporter of his own country’s human rights violations.
“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.
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.
The English Channel is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Southern England from northern France.
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.
During Monday’s match between Iran and England, the former team, standing arm in arm on the pitch, refused to sing along to their country’s national anthem in solidarity with the protests back home.
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.