Iran’s World Cup qualifying match with South Korea coincided with a day of mourning, which led to an incredible controversy (New York Times). The game took place on the eve of Ashura, a Shiite holiday that honors the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. Senior clerics from the holy city of Qom and hardliner government officials pushed for the match to be canceled since it wasn’t appropriate for spectators to cheer for Team Melli. As a compromise, those pushing for the match’s cancellation urged soccer fans not to cheer the Iranian team or celebrate a victory, as they interpreted any expression of celebration as an insult to Shiite Islam. State media told spectators to wear black and to shout “Ya Hossein!” rather than cheer or sing soccer songs, when Tehran scored. Even the pre-game entertainment, which typically features Islamic pop singers who sing about God and love, was performed by two prominent religious chanters.
Despite the somber mood at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran defeated South Korea 1-0.