Skip to main content

Qatar World Cup: Iran football star Ali Daei will not attend amid ongoing protests

Footballer says he will remain in Iran in solidarity with Iranians who died during the Mahsa Amini protests
Former Iranian footballer Ali Daei during the draw ceremony for the Qatar World Cup 2022 in Doha, 1 April 2022 (Ali Daei/Instagram)

Iranian former football star Ali Daei will not attend Qatar World Cup 2022 in solidarity with Iranians who died during the Mahsa Amini protests.

Daei, the second-leading goalscorer in the history of men's international football with 109 goals, wrote on Monday to his 10.6 million followers on Instagram, telling them of his decision.

"In these days when most of us are not feeling well, I answered No to the official invitation of Fifa and Qatar Football Federation to attend the World Cup with my wife and daughters," Daei, now an established football manager and businessman, wrote.

He added that he chose to "be by your side in my homeland and express my sympathy with all the families who have lost loved ones these days". 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Despite internet restrictions in Iran and a ban on Instagram, Daei's post received almost 2.4 million likes and nearly half a million comments in less than 24 hours.

In September, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody after being arrested by the morality police, which accused her of not wearing her headscarf correctly.


A post shared by Ali Daei (@alidaei)

Amini's death prompted widespread protests in cities and towns. Daei had expressed solidarity with Amini after the protests began and wrote, "instead of suppression, violence, arrests and accusing the people of Iran of being rioters, solve their problems".

He also published an animated video of a woman taking off her headscarf and dancing, an act that became a symbolic protest against repression in the country.

Daei was the former captain of Iran's national football team between 2000 and 2006. 

Iran's football team, coached by Carlos Queiroz, arrived in Qatar on Monday to start their training camp before the World Cup kick-off on 20 November. 

The Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, had met the Iranian team in Tehran before leaving for the World Cup. Raisi told the team, "some don't want to see the success and victory of Iranian youth and wish to disturb your focus. Be very vigilant on this".

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.