While all of the focus ahead of the World Cup group B clash between England and Iran centred on the one love armband, which the Three Lions threatened to wear only to announce on the morning of the game that they would not risk the wrath of FIFA, it was the Iranian players that stole the show with a powerful show of protest against the regime in their home country.
Anti-government protests have seen massive crackdowns in Iran across the last six months, and 32-year-old Iranian captain Ehsan Hajsafi told the press that the side ‘support’ those who have died in the protests.
“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he told the media.
“Before anything else, I would like to express my condolences to all of the bereaved families in Iran,”
“They should know that we are with them, we support them and we sympathise with them.”
“We cannot deny the conditions - the conditions in my country are not good and the players know it also,” the defender continued.
“We are here but it does not mean that we should not be their voice, or we must not respect them.
“Whatever we have is from them. We have to fight, we have to perform the best we can and score goals, and present the brave people of Iran with the results.
“And I hope that the conditions change to the expectations of the people.”
In that vein, when the Iranian national anthem rang around the Khalifa stadium, the Iranians were silent, while the tune was booed by the travelling supporters and the decision to abstain from singing was cheered by the Iranian fans in the ground.