Iran’s national soccer team stayed silent as the country’s national anthem played before their opening match in the men’s World Cup in Qatar on Monday.
Many saw the choice as a show of support for the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.
Iranian fans in the stand at Monday’s game booed as the anthem played, video shows.
“The reaction from Iranian supporters to their own own national anthem was telling,” a BBC game commentator said. “It was overwhelming, and not in favor.”
For months, Iran has been roiled by widespread anti-regime protests after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody in September. She was arrested for allegedly not wearing a hijab appropriately.
The government has responded with a harsh crackdown during which hundreds have died, thousands of protesters have been arrested, and one protester was recently sentenced to death.
During a press conference Sunday, Iranian team captain Ehsan Hajsafi spoke out in support of the protesters:
They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions. We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy.
Iran’s next World Cup match is on Friday against Wales.