IR Iran meaning: why is Iran’s World Cup national football team known as IR Iran, what is an Islamic Republic?

It’s all to do with the country’s official title

In 2022’s FIFA World Cup, the naming conventions of the 32 competing countries are fairly straightforward.

Russia was suspended by FIFA from all international football competitions “until further notice” shortly after Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, and so we won’t have the same well-intentioned but ultimately meaningless name changes we saw at recent Olympic events.

So for the most part, your World Cup wall chart likely makes for easy reading. There’s your Englands, your Waleses, and your Argentinas and Germanys...

But hang on, what’s this? IR Iran?! It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is Iran, but why exactly are the letters IR right there in front of the country’s name?

Here is everything you need to know.

Why is it called ‘IR Iran’?

While in day-to-day discussions you’ll hear the country of Iran referred to as just that - “Iran” - officially, the nation goes by a slightly longer title.

Its official name is the Islamic Republic of Iran, and so the IR here simply stands for “Islamic Republic”.

It’s similar to how Saudi Arabia is represented as KSA in television coverage of the event, because the country’s full name is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

(Photos: Getty Images)

To make things slightly more confusing, Iran is sometimes also known as Persia, the international name of the country in various languages.

This is because of the country’s historical and geographical ties to what is now referred to as “Persia proper”, now the modern-day Fars region of Iran located in the country’s southwest. Persian (also known as Farsi) is also the predominant and official spoken language of Iran.

However, in Iran itself, this name is rarely - if ever - used for the country, and within the English speaking world, the nation is simply referred to as Iran.

What is an Islamic Republic?

The term Islamic Republic has been used in a variety of contexts. Some Muslim religious authorities have coined the term to refer to a theoretical kind of Islamic theocratic government that enforces sharia or laws that are consistent with sharia.

Iran is currently the only one of the world’s Islamic Republics that is governed by such a theocracy, a form of government in which the institutions and people that govern the state are very close to the leaders of the main religion or are religious leaders themselves.

More commonly, the term is also applied to sovereign states that seek to strike a balance between a truly Islamic caliphate and a secular, nationalist republic. In some cases, the term is employed simply as a way of imparting a cultural identity on a nation, and makes little to no difference to the way it is governed.

The only other two countries in the world to use the term Islamic Republic in their official titles are the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.