USA Vs Iran: The United States won against Iran in a World Cup match that was influenced by ongoing protests in Iran and the long-standing tensions between the two countries.
The game in Qatar took place with extra security measures to avoid any conflicts related to the anti-government protests happening in Iran. These protests began after the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini while in custody on September 16.
Qatar, a country with close ties to the USA and friendly relations with Iran, wanted to ensure a smooth World Cup and increased security at Iran’s matches. They also banned certain items, like Iran’s pre-1979 Islamic Revolution flag, to prevent any potential issues.
USA Vs Iran
The relationship between the USA and Iran has been strained since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew from the international nuclear deal with Iran. President Joe Biden’s attempts to revive the deal have faced challenges and not made progress.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, downplayed any connection between the match and political tensions. He expressed hope that the game would speak for itself and mentioned he would be watching and supporting his country’s team.
In terms of the match itself, the United States won 1-0 with a goal scored by Christian Pulisic in the first half. This victory allowed them to progress to the knockout stage, while Iran was eliminated from the competition.
Despite the importance of qualifying from Group B and the political background, the match was mostly fair-played, with no serious fouls or conflicts between the players. The last time the nations faced each other in the 1998 World Cup, Iran won 2-1.
For fans attending the first soccer World Cup in the Middle East and those watching worldwide, the focus was on Iran’s domestic politics and its troubled relations with the United States.
Before the match at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, there were extra security personnel, some on horseback, patrolling the area. Guards at the entrance asked Iranian fans to unfurl their flags before allowing them inside. Police and regular security guards were stationed throughout the stadium, and some of them carried batons.
During the second half, a group of fans briefly held up signs with Mahsa Amini’s name on them. Other Iranian supporters applauded them, but security personnel took away the signs while letting the fans stay in their seats.
A Qatari official had earlier stated that they would ensure all matches were safe and welcoming for all spectators. They prohibited items that could potentially increase tensions and endanger the safety of fans.
It’s worth noting that Gulf Arab monarchies, including Qatar, don’t tolerate domestic dissent, and protests are uncommon in the region.
After the match, Reuters journalists witnessed some scuffles outside the stadium as stadium security chased two individuals.
Extra security personnel, some mounted on horseback, patrolled outside the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha before the match while guards at the perimeter made Iranians unfurl their flags before entering. Police were stationed throughout the stadium alongside regular security guards. Some carried batons.
Early in the second half, a group of fans briefly held up letters spelling Mahsa Amini’s name, to applause from Iranian supporters around them. Security personnel took their signs but allowed them to remain in their seats.
A Qatari official said before the match that authorities would ensure all matches were “safe and welcoming for all spectators”. Items that “could increase tensions and risk the safety of fans” would not be permitted.
Gulf Arab monarchies, including Qatar, do not tolerate domestic dissent and protests are rare in the region.
Outside the stadium after the match, Reuters journalists saw stadium security chase two people in a series of scuffles on the stadium’s perimeter.
Three guards tackled a man to the ground because he was wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” which is a central message of the Iranian protest movement.
The man kept shouting “women, life, freedom” while the guards were holding him down. According to an eyewitness, the confrontation started when the guards tried to take off the man’s shirt.
In another incident, guards pursued and forced another man back into the stadium area.
Reuters reached out to tournament security officials and the tournament organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, but they did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
‘NOT MY TEAM’
During the second half of the match, five members of the Russian activist punk group Pussy Riot stood in the stadium stands. They wore green balaclavas and t-shirts that had “Woman Life Freedom” written on them. The back of the shirts listed the names and ages of people killed in Iran. Nika Nikulshina, one of the group members, told Reuters that it was their way of supporting Iranian women and drawing attention to Iran’s involvement in conflicts, like sending drones to Russia to kill in Ukraine. They wanted to remind people that there’s more to the world than just FIFA and fun; there are serious issues like war happening.
Stadium security removed the balaclavas and, after the match, escorted the women out of the stadium in a polite manner. Nikulshina had previously invaded the pitch during the 2018 World Cup Final in Moscow.
Before the game started, some fans outside the stadium tried to bring attention to the protests in Iran and the Iranian government’s actions.
An Iranian living in the United States, known as Sam, said that everyone should know about the situation in Iran and their lack of a voice there.
Elham, a 21-year-old from Tehran, wanted the United States to win because it would be a statement against the Iranian authorities. She saw the Iranian national team as representing the ruling mullahs rather than the people.
In response to pressure to support the protests at home, the Iranian team chose not to sing the national anthem in their first game against England, which they lost 6-2. However, they sang it before the second game, a 2-0 victory over Wales, and again in their match against the United States.
The protests in Iran are a significant challenge to the ruling theocracy.
After the United States won on Tuesday, people in Tehran’s Velenjak neighborhood were reportedly chanting “Woman, Life, Freedom” and “Thank you, the U.S. team” from rooftops.