AFP – Carlos Queiroz admitted Iran's players are feeling the strain of protests in the Islamic republic after they suffered a heavy 6-2 defeat by England in their World Cup Group B opener on Monday.
Queiroz's side chose not to sing their national anthem at the Khalifa International Stadium in apparent support for anti-government protesters in their homeland.
Led by captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the Iranian players stood silently during their pre-match anthem.
Jahanbakhsh had said the team would decide together whether or not to refuse to sing the anthem in solidarity with the nationwide protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.
Amini, an Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic's dress code for women.
Speaking after his team were routed by England, Iran boss Queiroz made it clear the political unrest had taken a toll on the squad.
"It is not right to come to this World Cup and ask them to do things that are not their responsibility. They want to bring pride and joy for the people," Queiroz told reporters.
"You don't even imagine behind the scenes what these kids have been living in the last few days, just because they want to express themselves as footballers."
Queiroz said that whatever the players said, they could not win.
"Of course we have feelings and beliefs and in due time, at the right moment, we will express them," he said.