(ConservativeSense.com) – The 2022 FIFA World Cup Tournament in Qatar has seen its share of controversy and drama. The host nation has drawn fire for human rights violations over its treatment of migrant workers, women, and LGBTQ community members. But ahead of the US versus Iran match on Tuesday, November 29, a new flap had Iran demanding sanctions for the United States team.
A Social Media Storm
Over the weekend, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and, specifically, the US National Men’s Team’s (USNMT) official social media accounts removed the Islamic Republic emblem from the tri-color Iranian flag in their postings regarding team standings. “It was a one-time graphic to show solidarity with the women in Iran,” said a USMNT spokesperson.
In response, Iran’s state-affiliated news agency, Tasnim News, demanded FIFA expel the US men’s team from the tournament. The organization claimed the USNMT violated the FIFA charter by posting a distorted image of Iran’s flag.
By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the @FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty.
Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022 pic.twitter.com/c8I4i4z3Tv
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) November 27, 2022
Reportedly, the Iranian Football Federation would file a formal complaint against USSF with FIFA, according to Tasnim News.
Iran has suffered months of protest following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a young woman of Kurdish heritage arrested by Tehran’s “morality police” for improperly wearing her hijab. She was brain-dead three days later. Witnesses say authorities beat her, but the government denies the allegations, claiming she died due to pre-existing medical conditions.
Amini’s death, as well as the deaths of those protesting the general lack of freedoms in the country, have led to calls for change and ever-greater protests throughout Iran. Yet, the biggest surprise came from the Iranian Men’s team themselves. Ahead of their opening game with England, the team refused to sing their national anthem, and Iranian fans in the stands booed while it played. However, it seems the team’s actions have had consequences back home.
A source involved with Iranian team security said representatives from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) called players into a meeting after they refused to sing the anthem. According to CNN, the IRGC threatened their families with violence if the players condoned protests or refused to behave supportively of the regime.
Protest by Iranian fans – booing their own national anthem ahead of match against England. #Qatar2022 #iran pic.twitter.com/3YN5V2y7BO
— Jonathan Swain (@SwainITV) November 21, 2022
Iran has faced public challenges from high-profile celebrities and now its esteemed sports team. Still, publicly rebelling against the government could put team members at risk. Just last week, Tehran arrested a 2018 World Cup star team member, Voria Ghafouri, accusing him of “insulting the national football team” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” after he spoke in defense of protesters.
Iranian Team Facing a No-Win Situation?
As the US and Iran faced off on the field, fans and critics made one point very clear: Whether Iran won or lost, it is facing criticism from both protesters and the government, and both seek to use their notoriety to further their agenda. Several team members have made clear their support for protesters. After making the winning goal against Wales, Ramin Razaeean dedicated the point and game as “a gift” to the people of Iran. “Especially,” he added, those “who are suffering.”
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