An Iranian man was shot dead after honking his horn in support of the U.S. win after Tuesday’s match in the city of Bandar Anzali in northwest Iran. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights reported he was “shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss.”
The victim, Mehran Samak, 27, was a childhood friend of Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezatolahi (also spelled Saeid by some outlets), who mourned his death on social media and shared a photo of them as teammates when they were children.
Saeid Ezatolahi is consoled after the loss to the United States at the World Cup.
But Ezatolahi received criticism from activists for not explicitly stating Samak was killed by government forces.
Iranian celebrities have been targeted by the government with arrest or other measures for speaking out on behalf of protesters, who have continued to demonstrate following the police custody death of a woman arrested for wearing her hijab too loosely in September.
Iranian officials acknowledged but downplayed compatriots celebrating the U.S. win. Gen. Hossein Salami, chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said those who had celebrated were doing so on “behalf of the enemies,” adding “it is not important to us.” His comments appeared in the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Iran was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar following the loss to the U.S. on Tuesday that saw the players scrambling to score a goal in the last remaining minutes of the game. Striker Sardar Azmoun told reporters he was not satisfied with his performance in the last match.