A Qatari official said ahead of the match that officials would ensure all matches were “safe and welcoming for all spectators”. Items that “could increase tension and risk the safety of fans” would not be allowed.
Gulf Arab monarchies, including Qatar, do not tolerate domestic dissent and protests are rare in the region.
Outside the stadium after the match, Reuters reporters saw stadium security personnel chasing two men in a series of scuffles around the perimeter of the stadium.
Three guards pinned a man to the ground, who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Women, Life, Freedom”, the central slogan of the Iranian protest movement.
The man repeatedly shouted, “Woman, life, liberty” as the guards were on top of him. An eyewitness told Reuters the brawl began when the guard tried to remove the man’s shirt.
In the second incident, guards chased a man out of the stadium area and pushed him back inside.
Tournament security officials and the Supreme Committee of Tournament Organizers, Delivery and Legacy did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
‘Not my team’
In the second half of the match, five members of the Russian activist punk group Pussy Riot lined the stadium wearing green balaclavas and T-shirts that read “Woman Life Freedom”. Nika Nikulshina, a member of the group, told Reuters the names and ages of those killed in Iran were written on the back of the shirts.
“This is our gesture of support for Iranian women and we want to highlight that Iran is sending drones to Russia to kill Ukraine. We want to remind everyone that FIFA is not just fun and entertainment, and that there is a war going on,” he said.
Nikulshina, who invaded the pitch in 2018 during the World Cup final in Moscow, said stadium security removed the balaclavas and, after the match, “politely” escorted the women out of the stadium.
Prior to kick-off, some fans outside the stadium sought to protest and highlight the actions of the Iranian government.
“Everyone should be aware of this. We do not have a voice in Iran,” said an Iranian living in the United States, who gave his name only as Sam.
Speaking by phone from Tehran shortly before kick-off, the 21-year-old Elham said she wanted the United States to win because a victory for the national team known as Team Melli would be a gift to Iranian officials .
“This is not my national team. This is not a melee team, this is a team of mullahs,” she said.
Under pressure from publicly supporting the protesters at home, the Iranian team refused to sing the national anthem in their first game against England, which they lost 6–2. But he sang it before the second game, a 2–0 win over Wales, and again on Tuesday.
The protests in Iran are one of the boldest challenges to democracy.
People were chanting “women, life, freedom” and “thank you American team” from rooftops after the Americans won on Tuesday, two sources in Tehran’s Velenjak neighborhood told Reuters.