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Iran suffered a great football loss with the start of the FIFA World Cup, in Qatar, where it suffered a defeat against England, who scored six goals against two goals, in a match that was overshadowed by protests on and off the field.

Iran’s hardline media blamed the painful defeat on the turmoil that has gripped the republic since the death of Mahsa Amini.

According to the Associated Press, Iranian newspapers have resorted to a familiar tactic of accusing foreign enemies, including the United States, Britain and Israel, of fomenting protests to distract the national team from focusing on its game.

The main headline in Kayhan daily newspaper was “Iran 2, England, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Traitors – 6”, as the newspaper put it, in an attempt to mislead local public opinion and turn it against the protesters.

The newspaper, which was appointed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as its editor-in-chief, said that Iran’s defeat came after “weeks of unfair and unprecedented psychological warfare against the team… of local and foreign traitors.”

Iranian fans watching their team lose

It added that a “political media current” sought to “harm the spirit of the Iranian team by attacking it.”

On Monday, Iran’s fans in the stands chanted the name of Mahsa Amini, carried banners and wore T-shirts with protest slogans, and booed during the national anthem.

Many fans were conflicted about whether to support their national team against the background of the security forces’ violent crackdown on the demonstrations.

At least 419 people have been killed since the protests erupted, according to the Human Rights Activists in Iran.

As the match began on Monday, Iranian security forces fired heavily at protesters in a Kurdish town in the west of the country.

Another hardline daily, Watanimrouz, claimed that demonstrators in Iran celebrated their country’s humiliating defeat in the streets, burst into cheers in cafes when England scored and blared car horns with joy after the match.

Footage from central Tehran circulated online showing motorcyclists yelling and chanting “Six!” Referring to England’s six goals against Iran.

The authorities closed a cafe in the northeastern city of Mashhad for announcing its encouragement to England, in a manifestation of protest against the ruling regime in the country.

“None of the players were morally ready,” wrote the pro-reform Iranian newspaper Shargh.

The protest movement across the country initially focused on the Iranian state-imposed veil on women, but quickly turned into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s ruling clergy.

Over the course of the demonstrations, filmmakers, actors, sports stars and other celebrities have been speaking out against the government.

Iranian fans raise the slogans of the Iranian demonstrations

pressure on the team

The Iranian national team has come under enormous pressure from protesters to show support in the run-up to the soccer world championship.

The players faced a barrage of public criticism last week after meeting the president, Ebrahim Raisi, at a party where they remained silent on the issue of the protests.

Before the match against Enktra kicked off, the Iranian players did not sing their national anthem, standing silently in an apparent act of solidarity.

During the match, they did not celebrate the team’s goals.

Players risk a backlash from the authorities for protesting.

The state-run IRNA news agency has sought in recent days to promote the team as a national symbol and national unifier amid the unrest, describing the players as “soldiers fighting for the advancement of their country”.

Some former soccer stars who defended the protest movement have been arrested or charged in absentia.

Moein Muslim, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Cyberspace Organization, criticized four of the most influential former players, after they were reported to have turned down invitations to attend the World Cup as guests of the government.

“England’s strikers did not score,” he wrote, adding that Iran’s defeat was the fault of the former players, who protested off the field.

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