Iran boss Carlos Queiroz confronted a journalist at the end of a media conference after getting the better of politics again dominating the discourse in the build-up to Friday’s match with Wales. In an animated exchange, Queiroz suggested his peers face similar questions, taking the extraordinary step of asking BBC journalist Shaimaa Khalil why England manager Gareth Southgate is being spared questions about the war in Afghanistan.
During the press conference, Queiroz reiterated the importance of press freedom, but made it clear that he felt it was time for other leaders to be asked about wider issues in the world, saying it was “strange” that his rivals avoided such questions. Afterwards, he took the BBC journalist to task before being ushered out of the room. “Why don’t you ask the other trainers?” Queiroz said. “Why don’t you ask Southgate: ‘what do you think of England and the US leaving Afghanistan and all the women alone?'”
Queiroz was unhappy that Khalil asked Iran striker Mehdi Taremi if he had a message for those protesting against their government following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September. Iran’s players did not sing their national anthem before their 6-2 defeat by England on Monday in apparent support for protesters.
Khalil asked Taremi, “Your fans have been here cheering you, your fans are at home cheering you, there are also people on the street, what is your message to protesters on the street in Iran?”
Taremi said the Iranian squad was under no pressure to sing the anthem after suggestions they could face reprisals if they remain silent before kick-off against Wales on Friday and the United States on Tuesday. Taremi later added: “I can’t change anything, thousands of other people like me can’t change anything.”
Queiroz was previously asked if it was “fair for Western media and their journalists to continue asking Iranian footballers political questions?” The 69-year-old replied: “They are right, the press has the right to ask the questions they understand are the right questions. We have the right to give the right answers. It’s just a matter of us respecting each other.
“For us, there is no problem with your question, whatever it is. It is important that if we answer what we want, you must also respect that… There is nothing wrong with the international press asking the questions they want. It is the freedom of the press and we have the freedom to respond.”
Queiroz, who confirmed goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand would not feature due to concussion protocols, said his players were desperate to focus on football. “Let them play the game,” he said. “This is what they want to do. Play for the people of Iran. Players are not the enemies of the supporters. To make them the only people who need to give you answers about human problems around the world, you can judge that. I don’t think it’s fair I think it’s time to ask other coaches and players about other problems in the world and I think there are other problems in the world.
On the football front, Queiroz repeatedly referred to Wales’ supporters as the Red Wall, describing the atmosphere they create as akin to a “football party or a show”, and he reserved particular praise for Gareth Bale, who is set to break Wales’ all – time men’s appearance record by winning his 110th cap against Iran. Queiroz admitted that Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign Bale when the pair worked together at Manchester United.
“He is one of the best and at this moment is not only the team’s best player but also the character, the leader on the pitch in terms of leading the stability of the team, controlling the pace of the game,” Queiroz said of the Wales captain. – He is a very intelligent player. I did not have the opportunity to work with him despite the fact that he was one of those players who at that time [at Manchester United] we tried to collect. He is the picture of “one team”.
Bale, who made his Wales senior debut at the age of 16 against Trinidad and Tobago in 2006, scored an 82nd-minute penalty to earn a point against the USA in their group opener on Monday, but knows victory against Iran is vital if they should have a chance. of progressing to the last 16. “On a personal level it’s a fantastic achievement, an honor to represent my country so many times, but it’s more important to try to get the win if we can and make it more special,” said Bale. “We don’t want to just look at the England game and think it’s going to be a walkover just because England beat them 6-2, we don’t want to get sucked into that. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Bale said he hoped schoolchildren in Wales would be able to watch their match for a “mini history lesson”. “As I was a 10 o’clock kick-off in Wales, if I was one of the teachers I’d let them watch the game,” the 33-year-old said with a smile.
“I hope they do. It’s a historic moment in Wales, for us to be in a World Cup. Some of the parents of kids I know all want to see the game but don’t want to take them out of school, so I think a lot of schools will put the game on to cheer us on and get behind us. It’s a mini history lesson and hopefully it will be a great occasion for all of them.”