Tensions are rising between the teams representing the United States and Iran at the World Cup ahead of their Tuesday match. Over the weekend, Iran called for the U.S. to be eliminated from the tournament following a social media controversy.
The official U.S. Soccer Twitter account on Saturday had tweeted a graphic of the Group B standings, which featured the Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic emblem.
The U.S. soccer federation said the decision to remove the emblem was the federation’s way to demonstrate “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” according to Sports Illustrated.
The official US Soccer Twitter has posted the flag of Iran without the Islamic Republic symbol. US Soccer says it’s to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” US Soccer adds it was a one-time display and it will restore the symbol moving forward. pic.twitter.com/KmhWqQoLSo
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The flag change led the Iranian government to accuse the U.S. of “removing the name of God” from the country’s flag. It also led the state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency to call for the U.S. to be kicked out of the tournament for breaching the FIFA charter, Sports Illustrated reported.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter addressed the social media controversy on Monday and said the team was not involved. He apologized on behalf of the team and staff and said the team’s thoughts are with the Iranian people.
“We had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out — the staff, the players had no idea — and for us, our focus is on this match,” he said, according to ESPN. “I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that, but the guys that worked really hard for the last four years, we have 72 hours between England and Iran, and we really are just focused on how to get past Iran and (how) we can go to this knockout stage of the tournament.”
Politically-focused press conference
Iranian journalists strayed from the usual pre-match questions during Monday’s joint press conference between Berhalter and team captain Tyler Adams and instead asked political questions.
Berhalter was asked why he hadn’t petitioned the government to remove a U.S. naval ship based in the Persian Gulf and why Iranians face so many restrictions while visiting the U.S.
“I don’t know enough about politics,” he said, as USA Today’s Nancy Armour reported. “I’m a soccer coach.”
Adams wasn’t exempt from the unusual questions. Reporters asked the 23-year-old about his memories of the last time Iran and the U.S. played in the World Cup in 1998, despite prefacing the question by telling Adams he wasn’t born yet.
Adams was also chastised by a reporter for mispronouncing Iran when he voiced his support for the Iranian people and team. The reporter then asked Adams if he was OK representing a country with a history of discriminating against Black people, according to MLS Soccer.com.
Today, in a press conference ahead of USMNT vs. Iran, an Iranian reporter questioned Tyler Adams’ support of the Iranian people, and then asked the team’s captain if he’s comfortable representing the U.S., given the way the country has treated Black people. 🗣️🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/xjr0fGTWCi
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) November 28, 2022
Adams apologized for the mispronunciation before answering the loaded question.
“There’s discrimination everywhere you go,” he said. “One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilate into different cultures, is that in the U.S., we’re continuing to make progress every single day. Growing up for me, I grew up in a white family with obviously an African American heritage and background as well, so I had a little bit of different cultures. It’s a process. I think as long as you see progress, that’s the most important thing.”
The U.S. plays Iran on Tuesday at noon MST in its final group stage match. The U.S. can only advance to the round of 16 with a win, while Iran can advance with a draw or a U.S. loss.
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