Home South Africa USA beat Iran in politically charged World Cup showdown – SABC News

USA beat Iran in politically charged World Cup showdown – SABC News

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The United States defeated arch-rival Iran on Tuesday in a World Cup clash marred by protests raging in Iran and decades of lingering political tension between the two countries.

The rivalry between the two countries, which severed ties more than 40 years ago, was held amid heightened security to prevent an outbreak of unrest that has gripped Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16. .

In solidarity with protesters in Iran, the US Soccer Federation temporarily flew Iran’s national flag without the Islamic Republic’s emblem ahead of the match, prompting Tehran to complain to FIFA.

Qatar, which has strong ties to Washington and friendly relations with Tehran, has staked its reputation on hosting the World Cup by beefing up security at games in Iran and banning some items deemed inflammatory, such as Iran’s pre-revolutionary flag.

Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump pulled out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Attempts to save the pact under President Joe Biden’s administration have stalled.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, speaking in Romania, played down any link between the match and political tensions and said he hoped the game “speaks for itself”, adding that he would be watching and rooting for his country.

In sporting terms, a 1-0 win for the United States means the knockout stages and Iran out of contention.

But for fans attending the first World Cup in the Middle East or watching it around the world, Iran’s domestic politics and its four decades of tumultuous relations with the United States formed the dominant backdrop to the sporting event.

Extra security personnel, some on horseback, patrolled outside the stadium ahead of the match, while perimeter security forced Iranians to unfurl their flags before entering. Police were stationed throughout the stadium along with regular security. Some held clubs.

At the start of the second half, a group of fans briefly held up the letters of Mahsa Amini’s name to the applause of the Iranian fans around them. Security officers accepted their signs but allowed them to remain in their seats.

A Qatari official said before the match that the authorities would ensure that all matches would be “safe and welcoming for all spectators”. Items that “may increase tension and endanger the safety of fans” will not be allowed in the stadiums.

“NOT MY TEAM”

Ahead of the match, some fans outside the Al-Tumama stadium tried to highlight the protests that Iranian authorities have been trying to suppress for more than two months.

“Everyone should know about it. We have no voice in Iran,” said an Iranian man living in the United States who gave his name only as Sam.

He lifted his shirt, revealing a T-shirt underneath with the protesters’ slogan: “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

Speaking by phone from Tehran shortly before the game began, Elkham, 21, said she wanted the United States to win because a victory for the national team, known as Team Melli, would be a gift to the Iranian authorities.

“This is not my national team. It’s not Mellie’s team, it’s Mule’s team,” she said.

Under pressure to publicly support protesters at home, Iran’s team refused to sing the national anthem in their first game against England, which they lost 6-2. But they sang it ahead of their second match, a 2-0 win over Wales, and again on Tuesday.

The unrest in Iran is creating one of the boldest challenges to theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The United States imposed sanctions against the Iranian authorities in connection with the crackdown on protesters.

Washington and Tehran severed official relations in 1980 after the revolution. When their football teams met in the 1998 World Cup, Iran won 2-1.

Steve Garcia of Phoenix, Arizona, said the United States and Iran have their differences but can come together in sports.

“I know there’s a lot of politics going on, but the way I look at it is we’re here to have a common bond, which is football, football,” he said.

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