A game of two halves

Captain Ehsan Haji Safi

Ehsan Haji Safi, the captain of the Iranian football team at the World Cup in Qatar, spoke out ahead of their game against England today, saying

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 have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy. We are here but it does not mean 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 and score some goals to present the brave people of Iran with a result. I hope conditions change as to the expectations of the people.

He spoke at a time of huge upheaval in Iran, only two months after the killing of Mahsa Amini in the custody of so-called 'morality police' after her arrest for wearing the compulsory hijab 'incorrectly'.

To give support like this was done at great personal risk, not just to his career but literally to his life. 

So, it comes as a doubly-hurtful blow to hear that Harry Kane, the captain of England in the same match, chose to back out of simply wearing a rainbow captain's armband in support of "one love". Especially as only 24 hours beforehand, 5 people were killed in a mass shooting at an LGBTQIA nightclub in Colorado.

The reason given for deciding not to wear the armband? Because he might get booked. 

Wow - the horror.

Sometimes, brave people stand up and do brave things because they matter. Regardless of the score on the pitch today, the captain I will regard most highly today is Ehsan Haji Safi, the captain of Iran.