US and Iran involved in politics the day before the World Cup game

Simmering tension between Washington and Tehran boiled over to a press conference by Gregg Berhalter, head coach of the United States national soccer team, on Monday.

A day before Team USA’s crucial Qatar 2022 World Cup match against Iran at Doha’s Al Thumama, Berhalter was pressed about US naval and immigration policy.

Tyler Adams, Captain of the United States, was asked about discrimination in the United States.

It was another sign of how strained ties between the two countries have become in recent years, since the killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad in 2020.


And talks to restart the Iran nuclear deal, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2019, are all but stalled as the US imposes more sanctions on Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22 years, in the custody of Iran’s “morality police”.

The United States and Iran played a politically charged World Cup group stage match in 1998 which Iran won 2-1.

Berhalter said he hoped his team could focus solely on soccer, as they needed a win to secure a place in the knockout stages of this year’s World Cup.

“We know exactly what Iran will bring and we don’t want to make the same mistakes we did in the past,” he said. “We want to learn from that and be able to put it into practice.”

Iranian players have also been drawn into the political conversation as protesters dare them to speak out against their government’s deadly crackdown on protests following Amini’s death.

The US soccer federation temporarily displayed the Iranian national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic republic, prompting the Iranian soccer federation to call on the US for a 10-match ban and expulsion from the World Cup.

The American players were not consulted on the USSF’s decision.

“I can only reiterate that the players and staff knew nothing of what was being posted. Sometimes, things are out of our control,” Berhalter said.

“All we can do on our own behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and staff, but that’s not something we were a part of.

“Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the players and the entire country, but our focus is on this match.”

And former US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to retire over comments in which he said ‘this is just their culture’, referring to Iran’s play against Wales during last season’s 2-0 win. week.

In a post on Twitter, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz called Klinsmann’s comments a “shame on football”.

Queiroz invited Klinsmann to visit the Iranian national team camp to learn about their culture. He also called on Klinsmann to step down as a member of the Qatar 2022 technical study group.

Klinsmann said his words were taken out of context, adding that he would try calling Queiroz.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: November 28, 2022, 11:40pm

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