If the World Cup is supposed to be a time for dropping politics and coming together, things aren’t really going that way this year. There’s been so much international drama at the 2022 World Cup – many countries are criticizing human rights abuses in Qatar; clashes are happening between Middle-Eastern attendees and Israel’s press; and players from several countries have been told they can’t wear armbands in support of the LGBTQ community. England’s players have also been taking knees during anthems for different political reasons, and the Iranian players refused to sing when their country’s anthem was played. Football doesn’t even seem to be the main event making the headlines anymore.
On Sunday, the US Soccer Federation stirred up more trouble. On its social media platforms, it (briefly) changed Iran’s flag in support of the country’s ongoing protests by removing the emblem of the Islamic Republic. The US Soccer Fed said the image was meant to stay up for 24 hours, but it’s already been replaced with the current, intact flag. The US men’s team coach said they weren’t aware of the flag change, but he did apologize. So now, Iran wants the US team booted from the Cup, and it’s threatening legal action, too. The two countries play each other on Tuesday.
“We look forward to a peaceful and competitive match on the field. The United States continues to find ways to support the Iranian people in the face of state-sponsored violence against women and a brutal crackdown against peaceful protestors,” the US State Department told CNN.
“We had no idea about what US Soccer put out. The staff, the players, we had no idea. All we can do is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff. But it’s not something that we were a part of,” said the US coach Gregg Berhalter on Monday. “Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone. But our focus is on this match.”
“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,” Iran state media news agency Tasnim tweeted on Sunday.