When Iran’s football squad beat Morocco 1-0 in their opening Wold Cup match, Iranians broke out in ecstatic jubilation. It was the first time in 20 years that the country had won a Wold Cup fixture, and needless to say, fans were exuberant. But the country’s religious rulers, under the leadership of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, eyed this excitement with great suspicion.
After dissident protests erupted across the country earlier this year, Iran’s religious elite grew wary of large gatherings — even if all Iranians want to do now is meet at restaurants, cinemas and on the streets to watch their national football team.
Football after the revolution
After the Iran’s 1979 revolution, football, like other sports, was banned. The country’s religious leaders deemed it frivolous and counter to Islamic teachings. An Iranian national football team was eventually established, but during the Iran-Iraq war, the government prohibited the squad from playing matches on neutral ground — for which it was suspended by the sport’s world governing body, FIFA.