Leading Iran for a third time at a World Cup, Carlos Queiroz could not be surprised to face politically-charged questions.
Particularly when the Portuguese coach only returned to the job in September and protests erupted across Iran before he had even managed a match again.
The September World Cup warm-up fixtures saw players cover the national team badge and some speak in support of the protest movement sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
The 22-year-old woman died after being detained by morality police for seemingly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
Anti-regime demonstrations are being viewed as the biggest challenge since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
So the Iranian team made the short trip to Qatar for the first World Cup in the Middle East followed by questions about whether the platform will be used to show dissent against the regime.
Ahead of Iran’s opening game against England on Monday, Queiroz said “everybody has the right to express themselves” if they followed the FIFA regulations.
“You guys bend your knees in the games,” he added, referencing players campaigning against racial injustice in England. “Some people agree, some people don’t agree with that, and Iran is exactly the same.”
Former Iranian football stars Ali Daei and Javad Nekounam have both declined FIFA invitations to attend the World Cup in solidarity with the protesters.
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A violent crackdown has led to more than 300 people being killed and 14,825 others arrested, according to a monitoring group.
The oppression of women directly touches on football, with only limited access to stadiums – an issue that has been raised in recent years by FIFA.
A team press officer had already tried to cut the press conference short when Sky News asked Queiroz if he was comfortable representing a nation that suppresses women’s rights.
Queiroz responded: “How much you pay me to answer that question? How much you pay me?
“Talk to your boss and at the end of the World Cup I can give you the answer if you make me a good offer.”
Queiroz sought to shift attention to issues in Britain.
“Think about what happened in your country with immigration,” he said, leaving the room to head onto the training pitch.
After playing England to open the World Cup group, Iran faces Wales and the United States – a country the regime has had no diplomatic relations with for more than four decades.
Iran is competing at the tournament after FIFA resisted calls to ban the team for the country supplying weapons to Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
Russia, the 2018 World Cup host, was banned from the Qatar event for launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.