Ahead of their opening World Cup game, Iran’s players stayed silent during the anthem in what appeared to be a protest in support of the ongoing demonstrations in the country, while Iranian supporters in the crowd booed and jeered throughout.
Protests have been raging for two months in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who was killed by the morality police for flouting the strict Islamic dress code.
Queiroz’s squad has been criticised for a perceived lack of support for protestors and for meeting with the country’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi before travelling to Doha.
In an impassioned plea on behalf of his players, Queiroz told supporters to stay away from games if they do not support his young side.
“Everybody knows the present circumstances and environment of my players,” said the former Manchester United assistant and Real Madrid boss.
“It’s not the best environment. In terms of commitment and concentration, they are affected by those issues.
“They are human beings, they’re kids, I’ve know them for a lot of years. They only have one dream which is to follow the legends of the country, play for the country, play for the people, enjoy to play for the people.
“And I’m very proud of them. They stand up, keep fighting, scored two goals in these circumstances. They did well, I’m very proud of what they did.
“But of course, if you want one example, 2014, 2018, we had full support from the fans. And now you saw what happened today. That’s why my duty, it is probably to invite the fans who are here already to support the team or they should stay home.
“Why did they come here to be against the team? We don’t need them. It’s much better they stay home. To have fans who only support the team when we are winning, we don’t need them. It’s something that the players can feel when they are playing.
“You don’t even imagine behind the scenes what these kids they have been living in the last few days just because they want to play football, just because they want to express themselves as footballers. Whatever they do whatever they say, they want to kill them.
“Can you imagine at one stage of your life, whatever you say or do or think, you are killed? They only have one hope. Let them represent the country, play for the people, everybody represents the people here.”
Over 400 protestors have reportedly been killed in a violent crackdown by the authorities since the start of demonstrations, including more than 50 children.
A number of supporters who have travelled to Doha have made no secret of their support for the protestors, and among the banners on display at the Khalifa International Stadium was one reading: “Women, Life, Freedom”.
Queiroz added: “When I make the comment about Iranians, of course all Iranians in the stadium are all welcome. They have the right to be pleased or criticise the team, that is not a problem. Those that come to disturb the team with the issues that are not only about football opinions, they are not welcome because our boys are just simple football boys.
“These kids, they have one dream: to play football., It is not their fault the World Cup happens in this moment. As the musician said: ‘let the kids play the game.’ Please. Let the kids play the game because this is what they are looking for.
“They want to represent the country as any other national team are here. All the national teams have issues at home. These kids, they only want to play the game, enjoy the game.”