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Iran’s greatest player refuses to attend England World Cup clash as boss Carlos insists players DO have right to protest

IRANIAN legend Ali Daei will boycott the World Cup – as coach Carlos Queiroz insisted his players DO have the right to protest.

But former Manchester United No 2 Queiroz did lose his temper when asked about Iran’s treatment of women.

Iran legend Ali Daei is boycotting the World Cup in solidarity with anti-government protestors
Carlos Queiroz insists Iran’s players can protest the World Cup if they want

Iran, England’s opening World Cup opponents in the Khalifa International Stadium next Monday at 1pm UK time, arrived in Doha 24 hours before Gareth Southgate’s men.

They walked into a desert storm, though, as ex-striker Daei, 53, who scored 109 international goals for “Team Melli”, revealed he had rejected a Fifa invitation to come to the tournament as a show of his support for anti-government protestors.

In an Instagram post, accompanied by a picture of a woman discarding her headscarf, Daei said: “I rejected the official invitation of FIFA and Qatar Football Federation to attend the World Cup with my wife and daughters.

“I prefer to be next to you in my homeland and express my sympathy with all the families who lost loved ones over these days.”

Daei’s statement upped the pressure on Queiroz, who was with his team when they were given an official farewell by state President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday.

Asked about his players’ right to protest, the Portuguese told a news conference in the Qatari capital: “The players are free to protest as they would if they were from any other country as long as it conforms with the World Cup regulations and is in the spirit of the game.

“But you can also express yourself on the field in the game of football and the players have only one thing on their mind and that is to fight to qualify for the second round.”

Queiroz, though, appeared shaken when further quizzed over whether he was “proud” to coach a country which represses women.


He responded by demanding of his inquisitor: “How much will you pay me to answer that question?”

Iran will play a final behind closed doors warm-up game with Tunisia tomorrow but Queiroz insisted his sole focus was a historic first knock-out stage qualification.

He added: “My players don’t only want to be part of history – they also want to make history.

“If we bring joy and pleasure to the people then we have done our job as footballers and that’s the most important issue for me as national team coach.” 

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