Jahanbakhsh criticises media 'mind games' ahead of Iran's World Cup opener against England
Iran international Alireza Jahanbakhsh criticised the English media for attempting to distract his side with "mind games" ahead of their World Cup opener against England.
Protests are rife in Iran after Mahsa Amini died in police custody in September after being arrested for not correctly wearing a headscarf.
But the former Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder, who now plays for Feyenoord, refuted questions over the unsettlement back home, accusing the English media of stirring up a frenzy for distraction.
"I'm not surprised you are asking this question," Jahanbakhsh replied after being pressed on the ongoings in Iran. "I assume you're from the English media.
"To be honest, I'm not sure if England wasn't in our group you would have come with this question, firstly.
"Secondly we have been facing this already for a couple of weeks with all the English media – this was all the headlines as we get closer to the World Cup, whatever the reason is."
Jahanbakhsh labelled the line of questioning as "mind games", before acknowledging the clash with England as "one of the biggest games of our lives".
He added: "We have just four days to go to play one of the biggest games of our lives – every single person involved in Team Melli – and all of us are focusing on that."
However, Jahanbakhsh appeared to backtrack on his initial stern stance when asked by an Iranian photographer about the ongoing conflict.
"To be honest if you ask this question outside my duty to the national team, I would have answered the question with a different view," he continued.
"Since I was a kid I was always dreaming to play for the national team and Team Melli has always been a big dream for me and I'm sure it's the same for everyone in the squad.
"We always want to respect the jersey and to respect Team Melli no matter what and every single guy who represents the Iran national team has worked so hard to be here and for the last World Cups.
"We've been through a lot of difficulties, and throughout the years there have been a lot of ups and downs in every way we can talk about, but when football comes together I think we can make joy and we can make happiness for people."