The manager of Iran’s men’s soccer team said his players were allowed to protest while attending the World Cup in Qatar, as long as such protests did not violate FIFA rules.

Carlos Queiroz made the comments during a press conference in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, Queiroz said: “Players are free to protest as they would if they were from any other country as long as it is in accordance with World Cup regulations and in the spirit of the game.

“Everyone has the right to express themselves,” continued Queiroz. “You’re used to bending your knees in games and some people agree, some don’t agree with that, and in Iran it’s exactly the same.”

According to Reuters, Queiroz was involved in a testy exchange with a journalist from British media Sky at the press conference who asked: “Are you OK to represent a country like Iran at this World Cup which suppresses Women’s rights ?

The Portuguese manager replied: “How much are you paying me to answer that question?… Don’t put words in my mouth that I haven’t said.

“I think you should start thinking about what happened with immigrants in England as well. Go think about it.

Iran has been rocked by anti-regime protests since September in the biggest show of dissent in years, sparked by outrage over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who had been detained by the vice squad for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.

Iranian authorities have since unleashed a brutal crackdown on protesters, having charged at least 1,000 people in Tehran province for their alleged involvement.

Security forces have killed at least 326 people since protests began two months ago, according to the Norwegian-based Iranian human rights NGO.

Queiroz selected star player Sardar Azmoun for the national team for the upcoming World Cup despite his public comments supporting anti-government protests. Azmoun has posted several times on social media in support of the protests led by women.

Iranwire, an opposition outlet, reported that Queiroz had come under pressure from Iran’s sports ministry to drop Azmoun from the Qatar squad.

Iran begin their World Cup campaign on Monday against England. The nation is aiming to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in its history.

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