Iran is demanding that the US Soccer team be disqualified from the World Cup going into Tuesday’s much anticipated US-Iran match, after more off-field controversy has sent tensions to boiling point.
A Saturday social media post across the official social media accounts of the US Soccer Federation (USSF), including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – featured an altered version of the Iranian national flag without the Islamic emblem in the center. US Soccer said it was to show solidarity with the ongoing ‘anti-hijab’ protest movement which has been raging for over two months inside Iran.
“We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours,” the US Soccer federation said. The USSF said this was in “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”
In response, Iran’s soccer federation said the move “disrespected the national flag of Islamic Republic of Iran,” and additionally that it was “unethical and against international law.”
It is driving outrage inside Iran, given that state media is describing that the US is “removing the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag. According to a description in the Associated Press:
The Islamic Republic emblem, designed in 1980, is four curves with a sword between them. It represents the Islamic saying: “There is no god but God.” It also resembles a tulip or lotus.
In response, on Sunday Iran state media called for the US team to be immediately booted from the World Cup for the intentionally “distorted image” of the flag.
Tasnim news agency said in a statement, “By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran on its official account, the US football team breached the FIFA charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty.” It emphasized: “Team USA should be kicked out of the World Cup 2022.”
Iran's soccer federation called for the U.S. to be expelled from the World Cup over social media posts that featured a doctored version of Iran's flag. U.S. Soccer said that it was meant to show support for the women of Iran, but later deleted the posts. https://t.co/zEX9IhT8K3
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 27, 2022
The flag sans Islamic emblem appeared for 24 hours and then the actual flag was restored…
— Richard Medhurst (@richimedhurst) November 27, 2022
FIFA has thus far not indicated whether it will take any punitive action.
Already there has been much off-the-field controversy and drama in Qatar, including a strict FIFA ban on players wearing ‘pro-LGBT’ armbands – which a number of European teams had initially planned to do, but have since backed off of.
For Iran especially, Qatar 2022 continues to be one of the most politicized World Cups in recent memory…
The sore losers of British state media https://t.co/z9HE3atvTr
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 26, 2022
Update: In an unprecedented press conference, the head coach of the US soccer team Gregg Berhalter apologized to the Iranian team over the altered flag controversy. However, he asserted that he and the team had no involvement with the weekend social media post which unleashed a firestorm of controversy.
“We had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out. The staff, the players, we had no idea,” Berhalter said at the Monday press conference. “Our focus is on this match,” he added. That’s when he issued a formal apology amid Tehran’s insistence that the US team be disqualified:
“We’re not focused on those outside things and all we can do, on our behalf, is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff. But it’s not something that we were a part of.”
“I’m not well versed on international politics. I’m a football coach,” he had stressed while being grilled by international reporters covering the World Cup in Doha.
Iran over the weekend and into Monday said that the US Soccer federation had “disrespected the national flag of Islamic Republic of Iran,” and additionally that it was “unethical and against international law.” State media described that the US had removed “the symbol of Allah” from the Iranian flag in social media posts. The original national flag of Iran has since been restored to the US team’s social media accounts.
As Axios previews, “The U.S. team will play Iran on Tuesday in a match that is a must-win for the USA in order to advance to the knock-out stage of the World Cup tournament.” As for Iran, it “can sneak through with a draw if Wales doesn’t defeat England in their next match, also taking place Tuesday.”