Iran protests
Iran protests iStock

As the World Cup continues to face criticism for allowing Iran to participate amid the regime’s ongoing abuse of protesters, the Islamic Republic arrested a well known former members of its national soccer team on Thursday.

Voria Ghafouri was taken into custody for “insulting the national soccer team and propagandizing against the government,” according to the semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies.

Ghafouri, who plays for the Khuzestan Foolad team in southwestern Iran, was not chosen to go to the World Cup. He has a longstanding reputation for speaking out against the Iranian government. He previously criticized authorities for banning women at men’s soccer games and also attacked the country’s belligerent foreign policy, the Associated Press reported.

The former player also expressed solidarity with the family of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year old woman who was killed in September while in the custody of the morality police, and had begun urging an end to the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters.

Ghafouri was arrested ahead of Iran’s Friday World Cup match against Wales. During Iran’s first game which resulted in a 6-2 loss to England, the members of the Iranian national team refused to sing along with their national anthem.

The team’s star player, forward Sardar Azmoun, has been a vocal supporter online of the protests. He was benched during the game.

Besides Ghafouri, two other well known soccer players have been arrested by Iranian police after speaking in support of the protests.