Athletes who got vocal about politics

Soccer player Voria Ghafouri arrested for speaking out against Iranian government

Stars Insider

25/11/22 | StarsInsider


The 2022 World Cup kicked off in Qatar on November 20, but the controversy began long before the first whistle. Qatar is a country known for its anti-LGTBQ laws and restrictions on female autonomy, and there are reports that thousands of vulnerable migrant workers died during the construction of the infrastructure for the tournament. Many teams have decided to make a stance against these issues, either through their attire or their actions on the pitch, but they're coming up against roadblocks introduced by FIFA at the last minute. Meanwhile, some players left at home are paying even greater prices for free speech. 

Voria Ghafouri is one of Iran's most famous football players. The 35-year-old has had an impressive career with both the national team and in the Iranian league, however, he has notably been left off the roster in recent years. Many believe this is due to his public criticism of Iran's treatment of women and Kurdish people. He wasn't chosen for the World Cup squad this year, and on Nov. 24, he was arrested for "spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic and seeking to undermine the national World Cup team," according to The Guardian.  The arrest was made very publicly the day before Iran's second match at the World Cup. The team refused to sing the national anthem before their first game, and the extreme actions taken against Ghafouri are seen as a warning to them not to step any further out of line. The country is in turmoil as protestors rise up for women's rights and are met with violence and mass arrests. 

Click through the gallery to find out what else is going down at the World Cup, and learn about the other athletes who have the courage to speak up about what they believe in.

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