Welsh players boomed out their national anthem before Iranian fans jeered their own, ahead of Friday’s crucial World Cup clash between the two countries in Qatar.
All eyes were on the Iranian players as they lined up on the pitch in Doha’s Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, after they refused to sing their anthem on Monday in solidarity with protesters at home, many of whom have been killed by Tehran’s security services.
Today, after threats from Tehran that players face retribution for their ‘insulting’ decision not to sing the anthem – some of Iran’s footballers gave a muted rendition of their anthem. As they did, their fans jeered as it was played in the stadium.
Pictured: Wales’ players belt out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – the Welsh national anthem – ahead of the crucial Group B World Cup clash against Iran on Friday
Pictured: Iran’s players line up for their national anthem ahead of their clash with Wales on Friday. Iran’s players gave a muted rendition of their anthem, while many of their cans in the crowd jeered – in solidarity with protesters back home
Wales escaped an early scare after an Iranian goal was ruled offside. Pictured: Ali Gholizadeh of Iran scores a goal past Wayne Hennessey of Wales, that was soon ruled offside
The Red Wall: Fans of Wales show their support prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and Iran at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar, on Friday
Wales fans in the stands during the FIFA World Cup Group B match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al-Rayyan, on Friday
Pictured: An Iranian fan stages a demonstration inside the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – holding up an Iranian football shirt displaying the name of Mahsa Amini and the number 22 – her age when she died while being held by Tehran’s morality police. Protests have swept the nation since, resulting in the deaths of hundreds
This was in stark contrast with the Welsh team’s approach moments earlier, whose players boomed out their anthem along with 5,000 fans watching from the stands.
The Welsh Red Wall basked in bright sunshine and 29C temperatures as the sea of fans watched captain Gareth Bale and his teammates begin their match in Doha’s Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, which got off to a frenetic, end-to-end start.
But in the build-up to the kick-off and as the anthems played, attention was elsewhere, as jeers rang around the stands from the Iranian fans.
Meanwhile, some some of the Welsh players wore rainbow-coloured football boots – amid an on-going row with FIFA over political statements, and its ban on the LGBTQ ‘OneLove armband.
The jeering from the Iranian fans was in solidarity with protesters in their home country, hundreds of whom have been killed in clashes with government security services over the death of Mahsa Amini in custody of Tehran’s morality police.
Many Iranian fans in the stands also displayed slogans supporting the protests, drawing particular attention to human rights issues and the plight of women.
Qatari authorities took particular issue with one female fan, who had painted her face white – with bloody tears pouring out from her eyes.
She held up an Iranian football shirt displaying the name of Mahsa Amini and the number 22 – her age when she died. It appeared one stadium security guard confronted her over her demonstration. It was unclear if she was removed.
Before kick-off outside the stadium, Iranian fans chanted: ‘Freedom for Iran, No to Islamic Republic’ – a direct rebuke of Iran’s theocratic government and society, where woman do not enjoy the same rights as their fellow male citizens.
Welsh fans were in fine voice today as they sang their national anthem, as crowds gathered in Qatar ahead of their team’s key World Cup clash with Iran this morning. Pictured: Wales supporters gather at the Corniche Walk Park, Qatar, ahead of Wales’ second Group B games at the FIFA World Cup 2022. Picture date: Friday November 25, 2022
Fans of Wales prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and Iran at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium
Wales fans gather next to an oversized version of a bucket hat decorated in Welsh colours
Welsh singer Dafydd Iwan performs with a choir at the Corniche Walk Park, Qatar, ahead of Wales’ second Group B game at the FIFA World Cup 2022
Left: A Welsh fan shows of his commitment to his team by wearing a Welsh football shirt-tie combo to a work meeting. Right: Two Welsh fans enjoy a drink after ‘two hours sleep’ and a ‘heavy night binging’ ahead of Wales’ clash with Iran on Friday
Pictured: A Welsh fan wears a thobe, decorated with the a Welsh flag, the red dragon, and the country’s red and green
Before kick off, anticipation was building outside the stadium and at the Corniche Walk Park, with pictures showing hundreds of fans in football kits, proudly waving flags emblazoned with the red Welsh dragon.
A sea of red shirts and bucket hats could be seen on the city’s waterfront, along with the Urdd Youth Choir and Yma o Hyd singer Dafydd Iwan, with the crowd belting out fan favourites including I Love You Baby, and the Welsh national anthem.
After their 1-1 draw with the USA on Monday, Wales are chasing a historic first World Cup victory in 64 years that would take them a significant step closer to progressing from the group stage. Their final match comes against England on Tuesday.
Temperatures reached up to 29C as the match kicked off at 10am GMT (1pm local time) at the 40,000-capacity stadium.
Around 5,000 Wales fans are inside the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium to watch their team appearing at their first World Cup since 1958. Ahead of the game, Wales fans revealed the high cost of following their team in Qatar.
William Steeds, 50 from Aberystwyth beamed: ‘We’re so excited. We desperately need a win and I’m getting very nervous. The boys did us proud in the last match and I’m sure they won’t let us down,’ he told MailOnline.
His friend, James Watson, 48 added: ‘We’re favourites to beat Iran but that’s not good for us because we like being the underdogs. I’m very excited and nervous but we’re going to sing our hearts out for the lads.
Like many other fans in Qatar, Welsh have spent thousands of pounds on their trips.
Wales fans show their support prior to the FIFA World Cup Group B match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al-Rayyan. Picture date: Friday November 25
Wales supporters cheer for their team prior to the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between Wales and Iran
Pictured: Wales fans soak up the sun ahead of their clash with Iran on Friday
Pictured: A butterfly is seen perched on a Welsh bucket hat inside the stadium on Friday
Businessman Mr Steeds said: ‘It’ll cost me £5,000 by the time I get home which is a lot of money for two weeks. But this is an historic World Cup for us so we had to be here.
Mr Watson added: ‘ It’s one of the most expensive countries in the world but if we do well in this World Cup it will have been worth it. This is one of the most exciting chapters in Welsh football history so we had to witness it.’
Three Welsh fans maintained that their two-week trip to the World Cup will have cost them a mere £1,000 which is relatively cheap by local standards.
Gareth Murphy, 30, Tomos Williams, 30 and Joe Lavin, 28 revealed that they are staying in Dubai and flying in for games and returning immediately after.
Mr Murphy added: ‘It’s the cheapest way to do it. Qatar is just too expensive for ordinary people like us.
‘It’s been 64 years since we were last in a World Cup so we wanted to be here but had to do it a bit on the cheap.’
Mr Lavin added: ‘I’m very nervous for Wales but it feels wonderful to be here.
Several Welsh fans travelling from Dubai faced disappointment, however, amid reports that they faced visa problems at the airport and risk missing the game.
Wales fans arrives at the Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, ahead of the second Group B games at the FIFA World Cup 2022. Picture date: Friday November 25
Wales fans arrive at the stadium ahead of the FIFA World Cup Group B match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Al-Rayyan. Picture date: Friday November 25
Pictured: Welsh and Iran supporters pose for a photo together today ahead of the match
A Welsh fan is interviewed ahead of today’s Group B clash that will see Wales take on Iran
The Wales Football Supporters’ Association said on Twitter: ‘Loads (of visas) finally got approved late but this whole process with day permit for Iran game has been difficult for our fans. ‘We have informed FIFA and FAW.’
Dozens of fans replied to the post saying they or other supporters had been affected. Fans with a valid match ticket are able to apply for a Matchday Visit Hayya Card, which is a visa permit that allows entry into Qatar for up to 24 hours.
However, many have reported that they are not being issued in time to board the shuttle flights into Doha. At least 80 Welsh fans were told they cannot enter Qatar, meaning they will miss today’s match in a situation they’ve described as ‘hellish’.
A technical issue with the Hayya card app, which acts as a visa to enter Qatar, has meant the fans are now stranded in Dubai and unable to watch their national team play against Iran today.
Back at home, the eyes of the whole country will be fixed on the game and Rob Page’s Dragons.
Many Welsh schools cancelled classes to allow pupils to watch captain Gareth Bale and his teammates in action. More than 1,000 schools are expected to take part in ‘Cymru Football Friday’, the BBC reported.
Fans at home took to social media to show their commitment to their team. One man posted a photo of himself on Twitter wearing a tie over a Welsh football shirt. ‘Important work meeting at 10,’ he wrote.
Wales fans enjoy the pre match atmosphere prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and IR Iran at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 25, in Doha
Pictured: Welsh fans soak up the sun in the stadium ahead of their team’s match with Iran
Pictured: Welsh fans display a banner inside the stadium that reads: ‘When god created Joe Allen, he was just showing off’
Ahead of the game, FIFA gave the go-ahead for rainbow-coloured bucket hats and flags to be allowed inside the stadium.
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said the governing body has confirmed fans will be allowed to enter with the items for the clash with Iran after they confiscated them ahead of Wales’ draw with the USA.
The FAW urged FIFA to stick to their message that ‘everybody will be welcome’ in Qatar during the tournament after the first week was marred by its handling of LGBTQ+ symbols.
Former Wales captain Laura McAllister told the PA news agency: ‘I was always going to wear my rainbow bucket hat to today’s game, regardless of what we heard back from Fifa, but I’m really pleased we’ve been able to force Fifa’s hand on this.
‘They have heard now that rainbow emblems, whether it’s bucket hats, or laces, or wristbands, will be permitted in the stadium, but of course we were told that before the USA game.
‘I just hope they stick to what has been said, and I can’t see there being any issues unless the Qatari authorities completely ignore Fifa’s directive again.’
Pictured: The Wales team bus arrives at the stadium on Friday morning
Pictured: Gareth Bale of Wales arrives at the stadium prior to his team’s match against Iran
FIFA accused of ‘sinister abuse of power’ in LGBTQ armband row
FIFA has been accused of a ‘sinister abuse of power’ in the OneLove armband row by Kick It Out.
The captains of seven nations, including England and Wales, had been due to wear the rainbow-coloured anti-discrimination armbands at the World Cup in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
However, the plans were dropped when it became apparent in the hours before England’s first match of the finals against Iran on Monday that sporting sanctions would be imposed.
It is understood a booking to the captain wearing the band would have only been the starting point of the sanctions, with Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and the other five skippers also set to have been prevented from entering the pitch wearing it.
Germany protested against FIFA’s stance by covering their mouths for a team photo before their match against Japan on Wednesday, to highlight how they felt silenced. Wales have said they will not protest before their match against Iran on Friday, and it is unclear what England will do when they face the United States on Friday evening.
Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of Kick It Out, responded to a tweet suggesting the OneLove captains faced ‘unlimited liability’ over the armbands and wrote on Twitter: ‘What FIFA did is beyond failing to live their values and is a sinister abuse of power designed to silence – hence the German gag protest.
‘I guess if you hang around with autocratic dictators long enough, you start picking up some of their habits.’
Ms McAllister said she has not received an apology over the incident but it has not soured the tournament for her.
She added: ‘This backfired so horribly for Fifa and the Qataris because, at the end of the day, it gave us a platform to talk about LGBT rights.’
This comes after FIFA’s controversial decision to ban team captains from wearing the LGBTQ ‘OneLove’ armband during their World Cup matches.
England, Wales and five other European teams abandoned plans to wear rainbow-themed ‘Onelove’ armbands at the World Cup because of the threat of FIFA disciplinary action, that would see players and teams face sanctions.
The armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
Wales’ Gareth Bale was one of the captains expected to wear the armband. When he took to the field against the USA, he was instead wearing a FIFA-approved ‘No Discrimination’ armband instead. England’s Harry Kane did the same.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the Iran players and fans to see if they repeat the protests they carried out during their last match against England, which included not singing their national anthem.
Prior to their kick off against England on Monday, Iranian players refused to sing in a show of solidarity with protesters back home, hundreds of whom have been killed in clashes with government security services over the death of Mahsa Amini – who died in custody after being arrested by the Tehran’s morality police.
Many Iranian fans in the stands displayed slogans supporting protests, drawing particular attention to human rights issues and the plight of women in Iran.
Ahead of their clash with Wales, some Iranian fans looked set to continue their demonstrations today. Two Iran fans were pictured wearing t-shirts that read: ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’
Others chanted outside the stadium: ‘Freedom for Iran, No to Islamic Republic’.
The world will also be watching to see if Wales or England players decide to protest over Fifa’s decision to place sporting sanctions on captains who wear the One Love armbands.
An Iran fan holding a shirt in memory of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died, aged 22, in the custody of the country’s morality police in the capital, Tehran
The Iranian fan appeared to be confronted by official inside the Qatari stadium on Friday
Iran fans hold up a shirt advocating for women’s rights prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between Wales and IR Iran at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 25
Supporters wave Iranian flags and hold up a sign reading ‘Freedom for Iran, No to Islamic Republic’, ahead of the World Cup group B soccer match between Wales and Iran, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Friday, November 25
Pictured: Two Iranian fans wear t-shirts that read: ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’ ahead of today’s clash with Wales. Iranian fans have used the world cup to show their solidarity with anti-government protesters at home
Pictured: An Iranian fan waves at the camera head of his team’s clash with Wales today
The German team made a stand at the start of their head to head with Japan by posing for a picture covering their mouths.
Mr Iwan, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Iranian regime, said: ‘I think it’s great that the Iran football team has expressed a disenchantment with their own government. We must also oppose the Iran government.
‘But, as far as football is concerned, this is a game we’ve got to win.
‘I saw a glimpse of the team playing yesterday. They look in fine form – Joe Allen is very sprightly – so I’m full of confidence.’
Sara Penant, 28, from Caernarfon in North Wales, and one of the horde of Wales fans crowded around the giant bucket hat installation on Friday morning, said: ‘I’m excited. There’s such a buzz building around here, but slightly apprehensive about the game as well because obviously it’s a crucial one.
‘If Wales win, it will be chaos tonight, but if we lose it’ll change the whole dynamic of the next couple of days.
‘I hope we get to see it. We’re quite greedy now after the Euros last year and 2016.
‘If you’d talked to us years ago, probably seeing Wales score in a World Cup would have been enough, but expectations are higher now and we want to see that win.’
Wales’ Gareth Bale was one of the captains expected to wear the armband. When he took to the field against the USA, he was instead wearing a FIFA-approved ‘No Discrimination’ armband instead (pictured). England’s Harry Kane did the same
Wales fans celebrate as Gareth Bale scores the equaliser during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between USA and Wales at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 21