The historical context around must-win US-Iran world cup football match

The US and Iran have played just twice before, in 1998 and 2000 (Bongarts/Getty Images)

The US and Iran have played just twice before, in 1998 and 2000 (Bongarts/Getty Images)

It’s rare that international sporting events are all about what happens in the match.

If teams play regularly enough – in competitions or tournaments – they can simply try to do their best on the field and become a winner.

But often, especially if teams compete irregularly, matchups can be judged by history and often difficulty. India and Pakistan have used their international cricket matches for “sports diplomacy”, but sometimes such games lead to violence, sometimes in far-flung places such as the United Kingdom, between rival supporters.

Similarly, in 2018 The two Koreas, led by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong, made real progress at the Winter Olympics, with both countries competing as one “Korea”. in ice hockey competitions.

What about USA vs. Iran soccer in the World Cup, a game that the USA must win to qualify for the tournament, and if Iran wins, they could be out of the group stage. Wales don’t beat England.

Tuesday’s match in Qatar is not the first time the two countries, dating back to 1980, have met. after severing diplomatic relations after the Iranian revolution, they play football with each other.

in 1998 in June, the USA lost to Iran 2-1 in Lyon during the FIFA World Cup hosted by France. According to many participants, this game broke down prejudice and helped create new understanding.

Two years later, the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly in Pasadena, California.

“Sport is also an opportunity to overcome difficulties and diplomatic impasses. Given the ongoing protests in support of women’s and human rights in Iran, which have gained global attention, I hope that players and fans on both sides will find more common ground than animosity,” said Professor Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet of the university. Pennsylvania tells The Independent.

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“The players, like other high-profile athletes, are under the microscope, and their civil disobedience puts them at risk from the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus.” But they are also citizens of a troubled country, and their decision to express support for social protests in Iran was appreciated by many.

This week’s contest comes at a time of particularly strained relations between the United States and Iran, which were among the signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal. a nuclear deal aimed at halting any nuclear weapons ambitions by Tehran in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and a partial deal. return to the international arena.

Donald Trump 2018 cut the US deal and reimposed crippling economic sanctions, one of the factors pushing Tehran further into Vladimir Putin’s orbit as it now continues its invasion of Ukraine, reportedly armed with Iranian drones.

There is more. The game also takes place against the backdrop of widespread protests in Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police after being expelled for apparently not wearing a hijab. . While the protesters received international acclaim and their efforts were praised by members of the Iranian team earlier this month, the Iranian government and its supporters have accused the West of trying to orchestrate the protests.

Under Trump, U.S. policy toward Iran has been to undermine the government and try to force change. Biden was a little less blunt about Washington’s desires, but he probably spoke more honestly than his aides would have liked when he said of the midterm suspension of the campaign: “Don’t worry, we’re going to liberate Iran. They will be released soon.

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Supporters of the Iranian government, including academics such as Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran in Iran, play down the scale of the protests and highlight incidents in which members of the security forces have reportedly been killed.

“As expected, despite the killing of over 60 policemen, the Western sponsored riots/terror failed,” he tweeted this week.

“The Western elite believe their propaganda about Iran and miscalculate.

Although many Western countries know about 1979. the revolution that brought to power an Islamist government led by the previously exiled religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini and the hostage-taking of 52 US diplomats at the American embassy in Tehran, the events leading up to the takeover have been less talked about. until this.

Experts say that 1953 was very important for such an understanding. A coup in the US and UK that installed the pro-Western monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and ousted the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Official diplomatic relations were severed in 1980. April. Since then, relations between the two nations have remained largely unchanged, although there has been an apparent thaw under Iran’s elected reformers such as Mohammad Khatami, first elected in 1997, and Hassan Rouhani. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif played an important role in securing the 2016 nuclear deal.

In addition, the rhetoric of other leaders did not stop. For example, in 2002 George W. Bush in his first State of the Union address in 2002. referred to Iran as part of the “axis of evil”.

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For its part, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei often refers to the “US regime” and has said that Iranians will chant “Death to America as long as the United States remains angry.”

At the start of Tuesday’s game, when it emerged that the US Soccer Federation had briefly displayed the Iranian national flag without the Islamic Republic’s coat of arms on social media, there was a bit of a game or an outright insult, depending on how you look at it. .

In the first game in 1998  Iran beats USA 2-1 at World Cup in France (AFP via Getty Images)

In the first game in 1998 Iran beats USA 2-1 at World Cup in France (AFP via Getty Images)

It said the move was to support the protesters, but Iran responded by saying the US was “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag.

Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to Iran’s football federation, as saying that “the measures taken regarding the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran are against FIFA’s competition laws.” “They must be held accountable,” Fagahanpour said.

“Obviously, by doing this, they want to affect Iran’s performance against the United States.”

Team USA manager Gregg Berhalter apologized for the episode on Monday.

“The players and the staff had no idea what was being announced,” Berhalter said at a press conference.

“Sometimes things are out of our control. We believe this will be a game where the result will depend on who puts in more effort, who performs better on the pitch.

He added: “And we don’t focus on those external things. All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and staff, but that is not our part.

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