The Iranian football team players on November 21 refused to sing their national anthem before their opening match against England at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, in what appeared to be a show of defiance against their government, which is the focus of escalating and explosive protests.
The national team shows support for the anti-government protests taking place after Mahsa Amini’s death. The Iranian players stood impassively and grim-faced as their anthem rang out around the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
In the current World Cup, Germany’s players also covered their mouths for the team photo before their World Cup opener against Japan in protest at FIFA’s refusal to allow rainbow-themed armbands. Germany had been among the seven nations that were planning to wear the “One Love” rainbow armband to express solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and show that football is for everyone.
At this major sporting event, political, ideological, or even football-related issues have previously broken out. The World Cup is the pinnacle of international football, and it has historically included both the highest athletic prowess and numerous protests.
Let’s take a look at some of the World Cup protests since the tournament’s beginning in 1930, spanning from savage national conflicts to global issues.
Uruguay’s boycott (1934)
According to The sportbible.com, World Cup holders Uruguay boycotted the 1934 competition held in Italy. The country was upset by the lack of European competitors that travelled to their home competition in 1930, so in a tit-for-tat move, it refused to travel to Europe to defend their crown. It is the only time a World Cup winner has not featured at the subsequent tournament.
Africa’s boycott (1966)
According to The BBC, the 1966 World Cup is the only World Cup to have been boycotted by an entire continent. In January 1964, Fifa decided that the line-up for the 16-team finals would include 10 teams from Europe, including hosts England, four from Latin America, and one from the Central American and Caribbean region. Because they felt they were being unfairly represented, the Confederation of African Football declined to participate in the World Cup until at least one African team was guaranteed a spot in the competition. Two years after the finals, it unanimously voted to give Africa a World Cup place all to itself. Asia got one too. The boycott had worked.
Protests in Brazil (2014)
The 2014 protests in Brazil, also known as There won’t be a Cup or FIFA go home were public demonstrations in several Brazilian cities in response to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The protestors had said they are angry that billions of dollars are being spent on football tournaments rather than social projects and housing.