The United States and Iran are longtime political enemies, but they meet on Tuesday on the soccer field. It’s a decisive match in Group B of the 2022 World Cup, with both the Americans and the Asians still having a chance to reach the round of 16, picking up two and three points respectively in their opening two games.
The USMNT and the deleted Iran symbol
Some are saying that there is some sporting revenge needed by the USMNT this time around, with the Iranians having won the previous clash 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup in France. But with so much going on in the background, the Beautiful Game has an ugly shadow over it.
As you’ll likely be aware, Iran has experienced anti-government protests over its human rights record and the decision of the US Soccer Federation to display that flag on its social media accounts without the symbol in its center was seen as a sign of support for the protesters. Iran’s government reacted by accusing the US of purposefully removing the name of God from their national flag. This was confirmed by the federation on Sunday when it said that it decided to forego the official flag to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”
And Iran’s football federation even went so far as to demand that the USMNT receive a 10-game ban for “offending the dignity” of their country.
That said, the Twitter logo contains the complete version, so it could be that messages are a little mixed.
USMNT accused of trying to affect Iran performance
As reported via AP, Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to the Iranian Football Federation, saying that the “measures taken regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran flag are against the law” of FIFA competitions.
“They must be held responsible,” Fagahanpour said. “Obviously they want to affect Iran’s performance against the US by doing this.”
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. At the top and the bottom of the flag, there are 22 inscriptions of “God is Great” as well, which honors the date on the Persian calendar when the Islamic Revolution took hold.
The use of different flags of Iran has been common during this World Cup. Some Iranians have flown the flag with the emblem of the Islamic Republic, in an apparent show of support for the government, while others have displayed a completely different flag from the era of the Sahs.