Ehsan Hajsafi is the captain of the Iran national team
Iran captain Ehsan Hajsafi has spoken out against the situation in his home country ahead of his nation’s opener against England at the World Cup.
Violent anti-government protests in Iran have been met with heavy crackdown in recent months.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Monday’s game in Qatar, the 32-year-old said the players were “supporting” those who died.
“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said.
Human rights activists said a security crackdown killed more than 400 protesters and arrested 16,800 others.
Iran’s leaders say the protests are “riots” orchestrated by the country’s foreign enemies.
“First of all, I would like to express my condolences to all the bereaved in Iran,” said defense attorney Hajsafi at the beginning of the press conference.
“They should know that we are with them, that we support them and sympathize with them.”
“We cannot deny the conditions – the conditions in my country are not good and the players know it,” added the AEK Athens full-back.
“We’re here, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be their voice, or we shouldn’t respect them.
“What we have is from them. We have to fight, we have to do our best, score goals and show the results to the brave people of Iran.”
“And I hope that conditions will change according to people’s expectations.”
Ahead of the tournament there were calls for Iran to be kicked out of the World Cup, with activists citing the country’s alleged military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and human rights issues, including the treatment of women.