Experienced defender Ehsan Hajsafi said on Sunday that Iran's players at the Qatar World Cup want to be the "voice" of people back home, where there has been a deadly crackdown on women-led protests.
The football-obsessed nation of 80 million people is normally united by the sport but is reeling after two months of nationwide protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic's dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.
The crackdown since Amini's death has left nearly 400 people dead, according to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
The state's response has led to questions over whether the team represents Iran or the regime that has ruled with an iron fist since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Unprompted, the 32-year-old Hajsafi began a press conference on the eve of Iran's World Cup opener against England by extending his sympathies to those that had died in Iran.
"They should know that we sympathise with them," said the defender, later saying that "conditions at home are not good".
"We have to accept the fact that the situation in the country is not good and our people are not happy," he said.
"But that is no reason not to be their voice and not respect them.
"Everything we have, we owe it to our people and we are here to work hard, to fight, to perform well on the pitch, to score goals and to dedicate ourselves to the people of Iran.
"I hope the situation changes as the people wish and that everyone will be happy."