‘I’m talking to an Israeli journalist!’ Giggles and grace from Iranians at World Cup. Source: THE TIMES OF ISRAEL

Posted by

Reporter’s notebook As team inside the stadium stayed silent for national anthem

‘I’m talking to an Israeli journalist!’ Giggles and grace from Iranians at World Cup

Most Iranian fans outside Doha’s Khalifa stadium politely decline to speak with ToI. But some do, while one Tehran resident conveys his implied support for change with a mime

Ash Obel

By Ash Obel Today, 3:16 pm

Illustrative: Iranian soccer fans pose for a selfie prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

DOHA, Qatar — Wearing the white shirt of the Iranian national soccer team, Mohammad turned to his friend with a broad smile and told him, “I’m talking to an Israeli journalist!” a notion so ridiculous to the two men that it elicited a bout of laughter, in which I very tentatively joined.

As the sun set behind Khalifa International Stadium, Iranian fans filed into the mega venue in western Doha for their national team’s clash with England on Monday. Outside the grounds, much of the media circus was focused on the rare opportunity to hear from Iranian citizens face-to-face, away from the prying eyes of the regime.

As I approached people wearing Iranian colors for comment, many seemed happy to talk — that is, until I quickly introduced myself and the publication I write for. At that point the polite excuses began. “I’m in a rush, sorry,” was a common refrain.

Mohammad, a PhD student in social communication and media at Tehran University, was prepared to talk, however. After he and his friend had stopped giggling at the sheer absurdity of speaking to The Times of Israel, he posited that the anti-regime protests in his country were being fueled by Western media, which he said was far more “powerful” than Iran’s “weak” media. “It’s a media war,” he said as he waited patiently to pass through the stadium’s strict security protocol.

Mohammad pointed out that “all countries have social problems — everyone, even Israel,” but insisted “we have to make a good social situation for our people.”

Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Editionby email and never miss our top stories Newsletter email address

By signing up, you agree to the terms

He said women’s rights are “an agenda in Iran, in the Middle East, in Qatar. If you pay attention to the media you can see the human rights problem in Qatar too. I see the problem as global, not just Iran.”

Iran supporters wave their national flag bearing the word “Woman” as they cheer during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP)

Two Iranians from Tehran who operate a travel agency told me that while it was difficult for them to comment, change in Iran was needed.

When asked what kind of change, one of them mimed stroking an imaginary long beard, a subtle reference to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini and the Shiite clerics who control their country.

  • Another man began to discuss the myriad problems in Iran before I had managed to say “Times of Israel,” then halted mid-sentence to ask, “Which publication are you from?” At that point he ended our interview with a flick of his wrist, adding curtly, “And we’re done, bye-bye.”

It was the only instance of anything approaching hostility I encountered when  identifying myself as a reporter from Israel and speaking to Iranians. Most diplomatically declined to speak, some explaining it would be “problematic” for them.

An Iran supporter waits for the start of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 21, 2022. (Photo by Fadel Senna/AFP)

Even those who did speak understandably opted not to be photographed or give their full names.

One fan who spoke readily was Navid Dozadeh, 22, a professional soccer player for the Al-Ahli club, which competes in Qatar’s top Stars League. Dozadeh’s family lives with him in Doha, though he has many relatives in Iran.

The Al-Ahli striker suggested that Iran’s strict hijab laws were frivolous, demonstrating with his hand the different parts of the head that the headscarf is required to cover.

Iran players listen to the national anthem ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on November 21, 2022. (FADEL SENNA/AFP)

“So if it is like that, just make it free [for women],” he said. “It’s bad. It’s bad for women and for girls. There’s no freedom for girls, they have to wear a hijab. Some people don’t like to wear a hijab.”

While women in Iran are mandated by law to wear the Islamic headscarf, many Iranian women entering the stadium on Monday were bareheaded.

Dozadeh said that if he were in Tehran, he would certainly join the protest movement. “Everyone is joining,” he exclaimed.

The protest movement is “gonna change everything. It’s going to be the same like Europe. I hope so,” he added.


Inside the stadium, the entire Iranian soccer team, affectionately known by fans as Team Melli, chose to support the protest movement by refraining from singing the national anthem.

In the stands, Iranian fans, both men and women, could be heard booing the anthem when it was played. In Iran, women are generally banned from entering soccer stadiums.

Some fans raised flags and banners featuring the protest slogan “Women. Life. Freedom.”

Videos purportedly filmed in a Tehran neighborhood showed Iranian fans cheering during the game. According to some reports, however, the cheers were for goals scored by England in its 6-2 victory, not Iran.


Israeli politics told straight

I joined The Times of Israel after many years covering US and Israeli politics for Hebrew news outlets.

I believe responsible coverage of Israeli politicians means presenting a 360 degree view of their words and deeds – not only conveying what occurs, but also what that means in the broader context of Israeli society and the region.

That’s hard to do because you can rarely take politicians at face value – you must go the extra mile to present full context and try to overcome your own biases.

I’m proud of our work that tells the story of Israeli politics straight and comprehensively. I believe Israel is stronger and more democratic when professional journalists do that tough job well.

Your support for our work by joining The Times of Israel Community helps ensure we can continue to do so.

Thank you,
Tal Schneider, Political Corresponden

By TOI staff

Smotrich says human rights organizations are ‘existential threat’ to Israel

Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts disappointed during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)


In one of the greatest ever World Cup shocks, Saudi Arabia beats Messi’s Argentina

By TOI staff

Messi’s quest to win the one major title to elude him gets off to a shocking start as Saudis come from a goal down to defeat favorites by 2-1

Likud MK Amir Ohana in Beit El, in the West Bank, July 12, 2022 (Sraya Diamant/Flash90) and (R) MK Miri Regev in Jerusalem, May 29, 2022 (Arie Leib Abrams/FLASH90)

Ohana will head up Foreign Ministry, Regev to be named education minister – report

By TOI staff

Either Yoav Kisch or Ofir Akunis said in line for role of Knesset speaker; UTJ reportedly to get Housing Ministry — one of 7 ministries to be controlled by Haredi parties

Two Likud MKs assail Netanyahu over senior cabinet roles offered to other parties

Biden administration said keen on ex-envoy Dermer serving in senior government post

Report: Smotrich to become finance, not defense, minister in compromise with Likud

Illustrative: Iranian soccer fans pose for a selfie prior to the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Ash Obel

Reporter’s notebook

Ash Obel

‘I’m talking to an Israeli journalist!’ Giggles and grace from Iranians at World Cup

Most Iranian fans outside Doha’s Khalifa stadium politely decline to speak with ToI. But some do, while one Tehran resident conveys his implied support for change with a mime

Intel chief: Iran could attack World Cup, protests may lead to more aggression

In apparent anti-regime protest, Iran team silent for national anthem at World Cup

A satellite image from September 15, 2017, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

Iran says it has begun enriching uranium to 60% purity at Fordo underground site

By TOI staff and Agencies

Report: Israel tipped off UK about Iranian plan to attack local journalists

UN rights council eyes probe of Iran’s deadly crackdown on anti-regime protests

The Chabad movement's annual convention in Edison, New Jersey, November 20, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

ToI podcast

Daily Briefing Nov. 22: Self-driving buses on the road; Chabad emissaries convene

By TOI staff

US reporter Luke Tress discusses an attack thwarted at Penn Station and a Lubavitch convention, as Tech Israel editor Ricky Ben-David looks at self-driving buses and UAE business

A volunteer lights a candle during a vigil for Ahmad Abu Murkhiyeh, at an LGBTQ shelter in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 7, 2022. Hebrew and Arabic reads "we will remember you forever". (AP/Oded Balilty)

TOI investigates

Ghastly beheading lays bare the myriad perils for LGBT Palestinians fleeing to Israel

By Jack Mukand

Even before Ahmad Abu Murkhiyeh was murdered in Hebron for being gay, he faced a long list of dangers and challenges inside Israel’s ‘broken’ asylum system, friends and experts say

World Cup teams nix pro-LGBT armband protest to Qatar as FIFA threatens yellow card

Gunman who killed 5 at LGBTQ club in Colorado subdued by ‘heroic’ patrons

Jerusalem's Chords Bridge lights up with the Japanese and Israeli flags as a sign of solidarity with the Japanese people following the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, July 10, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)

Israel and Japan advance toward free trade agreement

By Sharon Wrobel

Move is expected to lower tariffs and bring down prices of Japanese-made cars, toys

File: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (L) and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan meet in Washington on June 23, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Top Biden aide raises Iran threats, W. Bank violence in meet with visiting IDF chief

By Jacob Magid

US readout says Jake Sullivan, Aviv Kohavi discussed taking steps to de-escalate security situation beyond Green Line, while former stresses support for 2-state solution

IDF investigating suspected botched car bombing near West Bank military post

Palestinian killed in clash with IDF; troops nab suspect in planning attacks

Screen capture from video of Likud activist Orly Levy, November, 2020. (Twittter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

AG seeks restraining order against Likud activist for harassing Netanyahu prosecutor

By TOI staff

Galia Baharav-Miara says Orly Lev’s social media posts attacking son of Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben-Ari are intended to intimate her

Judge rules ex-PM Olmert defamed Netanyahu family by claiming they are mentally ill

Netanyahu asks High Court to rethink order to return late cousin’s $270,000 gift

Bucking regional denial, UAE to include Holocaust in school curricula

By ToI reporter

Emirati ministries working with Yad Vashem memorial, London-based monitor group IMPACT-se to build material for elementary and high schools

Israeli's Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Eitan Na'eh, right, and German Ambassador in UAE, Peter Fischer, second right, watch a candlelight ceremony at an exhibition commemorating the Jewish Holocaust in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 26, 2021. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu: New government will pursue ‘broad’ consensus but defer to majority rule

By TOI staff

In first speech to 25th Knesset, presumed prime minister rejects ‘moral preachings’ of outgoing administration, vows to ‘preserve Israeli democracy and Israel’

Lapid warns new government will form a ‘halachic state’

Chief rabbi calls for government to change immigration law to keep non-Jews out

Thousands of Chabad emissaries gather in New Jersey to reconnect, celebrate growth

By Luke Tress

Over 5,600 rabbis from US, 100 other countries attend annual convention after COVID hiatus; Israel’s chief rabbi tells attendees he’s pushing new gov’t to restrict conversion law

The Chabad movement's annual convention in Edison, New Jersey, November 20, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Illustrative: Jews tour in the West Bank city of Hebron, after earlier clashes broke out between Jews and Palestinians, November 19, 2022. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israel teen arrested for assaulting IDF soldier during Hebron clashes

By TOI staff

Servicewoman alleges 17-year-old headbutted her and hit her with a stick; remand extended of another man suspect for assaulting a border police officer

IDF troops come under fire in Nablus; 16 Palestinians arrested in overnight raids

The grandmother of 5-year-old Gazan Amir Yichya Mabchuch kisses him on the head before he is taken in for open-heart surgery, at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, on November 21, 2022. (Tomer Noyberg/Save a Child's Heart)

3,000th Palestinian child has heart operation in Israel through Save a Child’s Heart

By Jack Mukand

At 5, Amir Yichya Mabchuch receives heart surgery through organization on Sunday; child’s mother says Gazans know Israeli doctors ‘can be trusted completely’

Israeli app sounds alarm before heart failure — just by analyzing your voice

Female soldiers operate a tank in the Negev desert in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Top yeshiva urges students not to join tank corps over mixed-gender training fears

By Amy Spiro and Emanuel Fabian

Prominent Har Etzion seminary says it is reacting to IDF adding women to officers’ training course without advance notice, a charge the army denies

Orthodox parties demand legalization of gender-segregated public events

MKs Gafni, Gallant appointed to key committee posts as Knesset returns to work

Deborah Newbrun. (Margot Yecies via JTA)

Jewish marriage rites are robust; now a rabbi is making rituals for Jews who divorce

By Alix Wall

Remembering what was lacking when she divorced, Deborah Newbrun adapts existing practices to help people with healing and closure

From The Hartman Institute

Jewish Media from Right to Left

The Jewish media landscape has evolved significantly over the last few years, and has in many ways becomes more fragmented.

David Ben-Gurion in 1951 (Government Press Office)

The Washington Institute

David Ben-Gurion: Leader of the Young State Confronts Momentous Decisions

After millennia of homelessness for the Jewish people, Ben-Gurion oversaw the founding of Israel. What came next? David Makovsky and “Ben-Gurion” author Anita Shapira discuss.

More Headlines

Youth swimming in a quiet part of the Sa'ar river, Golan Heights, April 14, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Sections of 22 streams to undergo eco-restoration alongside flood prevention

By Sue Surkes

A Pegasus plane seen at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, on September 03, 2014 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israeli flight to Turkey delayed as threatening videos sent to passengers’ phones

By TOI staff

Rescuers inspect a school damaged by earthquake in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, on November 21, 2022. (BASARNAS via AP)

Indonesian quake kills at least 162 and injures hundreds, overwhelming hospitals

By FIRMAN TAUFIQ and Edna Tarigan

Russian troops surrendering in Ukraine in a clip widely shared on social media in November 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Kyiv to probe clip appearing to show surrendering Russian troops being gunned down

By Agencies

Illustrative: Police and community safety vehicles at a Jewish event in Brooklyn, New York City, May 19, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

NYC mayor: Suspects held for synagogue plot posed ‘real threat’ to Jewish community

By Karen Matthews

This cover image released by Simon & Schuster shows 'The Philosophy of Modern Song' by Bob Dylan. (Simon & Schuster via AP)

Publisher of new Bob Dylan book admits that ‘hand-signed’ copies were faked


Members of the Israel United in Christ hate group gather outside the Barclays Center arena on November 20, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

As Kyrie Irving returns to action, Black Hebrews rally in solidarity outside stadium

By Jacob Henry

Illustrative: Taglit Birthright participants visit at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 18, 2014. (Flash90)

Birthright to cut up to a third of its free trips to Israel for young Jews

By Andrew Lapin

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, left, awards the Legion of Merit to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

US awards Legion of Merit to visiting IDF chief Kohavi

By Emanuel Fabian

Rabbi Ethan Linden, former director of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, is taking a new position at the Shalom Hartman Institute. (Screen capture/Shalom Hartman Institute via Jackie Hajdenberg/JTA)

Hartman Institute hires ex-camp director sued for mishandling assault allegation

By Jackie Hajdenberg

Residents of the recently liberated city of Kherson collect water from the Dnipro river bank, near the frontline, southern Ukraine, November 21, 2022. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Unable to ensure heat, Ukraine urges civilians to exit liberated areas before winter

By John Leicester

Fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) take part in a military parade in the US-protected Al-Omar oil field in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on March 23, 2021, marking the second annual anniversary of Baghouz's liberation from the Islamic State (IS) group. (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

3 killed as Syrian Kurdish militants fire rockets at Turkish border town

By Suzan Fraser

Top Ops

Erik Ross

Erik Ross

Klezmer was my rock

Adam Levick

Adam Levick

Cranberry sauce has no right to exist

Leah Bieler

Leah Bieler

Was the brutal attack on me in my home just bad luck?

Dan Ornstein

Dan Ornstein

Rabbi, I don’t know what to say…

Assaf Shapira

Assaf Shapira

When the Israeli political parties that run together don’t serve together

Ilya Bezruchko

Ilya Bezruchko

Why Israel is not ready for aliyah

David Sedley

David Sedley

Life partner

Chana Pinto

Chana Pinto

Terror is no laughing matter

Sam Lehman-Wilzig

Sam Lehman-Wilzig

It’s time for an umbrella party

Leah Herzog

Leah Herzog

Nature, nurture, and personal choice

Ross Singer

Ross Singer

Owning Israel or belonging to it?

Florence Berkowitz-Siegelberg

Florence Berkowitz-Siegelberg

Shpilkes at shul: A confession

Today’s Daily Briefing Self-driving buses on the road; Chabad emissaries convene

listen to the podcast

Latest Articles

See All

Latest Blogs

See All


For Heaven's Sake

Listen now


Into the Land: A Tale of Two Cities

Full Coverage Times Will Tell

See All CRM

Coronavirus latest

Israel statistics:

  • 6,720,654 Vaccinated: 1st dose
  • 4,705,787 cases
  • 6,156,927 Vaccinated: 2nd dose
  • 8,676 Active cases
  • 4,515,292 Vaccinated: 3rd dose
  • 119 Serious cases
  • 884,372 Vaccinated: 4th dose
  • 11,810 deaths

Global statistics:

  • 643,616,126 cases
  • 6,628,077 deaths
  • 622,764,522 recovered

Virus must-reads:

All ToI’s coverage

Full Coverage Liveblog

See All

The Times of Israel

Daily Edition

Free to Your Inbox

By signing up, you agree to our terms

Full Coverage ToI Original Video

See All

Tales of the Times

Scroll to view more

The Times of Israel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s