Mehdi Taremi denies the Iran team have come under pressure from home for refusing to sing the national anthem / © AFP
Iran forward Mehdi Taremi on Thursday denied his team had come "under pressure" from their government after opting not to sing the national anthem before their first World Cup match.
The Iranians had stood impassively during their anthem before their 6-2 defeat to England on Monday in an apparent gesture of solidarity with anti-government protesters in the Islamic republic.
Iran has been rocked by demonstrations triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested in September for an alleged breach of the country's strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law.
"I don't like to talk about political issues but we are not under any pressure," Taremi said at a press conference ahead of Iran's second Group B match against Wales on Friday.
"I knew that this sort of question was going to be asked but whatever I say, it won't matter because some people will write whatever they want to write," he added.
"So I prefer to only talk about political issues in private or on my own social media."
Taremi, who scored both of Iran's goals in the heavy defeat to England, said: "We came to play football, not just us but all of the players here in Qatar.
"Myself and thousands of people like me have the power to change things."
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz also said he didn't believe sport and politics should mix.
"We don't want to mix those kind of issues in a moment we play football," the experienced Portuguese coach said.
"What I find strange, as a humble citizen of the world, is you don’t have the same kind of questions to the other coaches of the other national teams.
"To make them the only people that need to give you answers about human being problems all over the world, I don’t think it’s fair."
Iranian authorities on Thursday arrested a former international football player of Kurdish origin who has strongly supported the protests, news agencies said.
Voria Ghafouri, an outspoken figure who appeared 28 times for Iran up until 2019, was detained over accusations that he spread "propaganda" against Iran, the Fars news agency reported.
UN rights chief Volker Turk said on Thursday that around 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested over the protests and decried the fact that at least six protesters had been sentenced to death.