Solidarity with Iran protests at a difficult World Cup match

A more politically sensitive World Cup match than Tuesday between the teams from Iran and the USA can hardly be imagined. The governments of the two countries have often condemned each other since the Islamic revolution in 1979, although there have also been periods of rapprochement. The Iranian regime often refers to the US as ‘the great Satan’, while in Washington Iran has sometimes been considered an ‘axis of evil’.

Tensions were also high in the run-up to the match, with both teams needing a win to be sure of qualifying for the next round. The US team used an Iranian flag on social media without the stylized form of the Persian word for ‘Allah’, which has officially appeared on the Iranian tricolor since 1980.

The Americans, the Iranian authorities suspected, wanted to show their solidarity with the protest movement that has demonstrated in Iran in recent months for more freedom in general and for women in particular. Hundreds have already been killed in Iran’s crackdown on the protests.

The Iranian Football Association demanded that FIFA, the world football governing body, call the US to order and issue a stern warning. A remarkable claim considering that the Iranian regime is itself the American one stars and stripes regularly set fire to the public in recent decades, urging citizens to dry their feet on mats depicting the American flag. Nevertheless, the Americans complied with the Iranian wish and still used images of the correct Iranian flag. “But we still support the Iranian women,” a US spokesman said.

The religious leaders have long suspected Washington of trying to topple their regime. As recently as Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington, along with other Western countries, of having a hand in the current unrest in Iran, without providing any evidence.

The US, on the other hand, is also concerned about Iran, especially since the country is now rapidly enriching uranium. Possession of such highly enriched uranium could herald Iran’s efforts to develop its own nuclear weapons, although Tehran has always vehemently denied such a move. With Iran in the throes of civil unrest for months, Washington has suspended negotiations with Iran on a new pact that would limit Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions until further notice.

Sanaz Saeyan (39) bank employee
‘I couldn’t stop reading and watching news from Iran’

“Mahsa Amini’s death after she was arrested by the vice team touched me a lot. It was a trigger to keep up with all the news about Iran – and sympathize with the protests that followed. Since then I have been working on it every day.

“In consultation with my manager, I worked half days for a while because I couldn’t stop reading and watching news from Iran. I shared a lot about it on Instagram. Many everyday things that concern others have since seemed frivolous to me.

“I grew up with football, always watching Iran’s matches. But I’m not watching this World Cup. Not that I have canceled the team or anything, but the WC should be a party. It must be connected. Have a good time for a month, follow your favorite team, have a football night or go to a bar with other people of Iranian background. But this is a time of sorrow.

“I mourn the unnecessary victims in Iran. I feel it very deeply inside. I have lived in the Netherlands almost all my life and have had a good life here. I grew up in a beautiful environment and I am happy to be here, but the history and trauma of my parents fleeing Iran is inside me.I sympathize with my country.

“I mourn the craziness of it all. The events that are too crazy for words for us westerners. Things that don’t even happen in a bad B-movie. It destroys many lives.”

Iranian-Dutch (34), works in the technology industry
‘I feel burdened. Can I be happy if the game is good?’

“I have vivid memories of Iran’s World Cup qualifier against Australia in 1997. I was nine. We were 2-0 down and it really looked like Iran were going to lose. Then an Australian fan came onto the pitch and stopped the game. Then our players revived, it was a draw.

“At that time, you could not always watch all the matches of the Iranian national team on TV. You could stream some matches on your computer, but then the quality was very poor. Fortunately, you can now watch everything online.

– Iranian football has always been important to me. Usually I watch with my dad and brother. I just watched the last game. I feel burdened. Can I be happy if the game is good?

“People have different feelings. Some believe, for example, that the team should speak out more against the situation in Iran. Some of those people don’t watch the game. They are also angry because, as usual before a World Cup, the team visited the president.

“At the same time, the players are probably experiencing pressure from the regime; they are in danger if they speak negatively. I have seen that most of our football players have expressed their support for the people of Iran on Instagram. It has become very political and therefore I will not be recognized in it NRC.

“I saw the World Cup as a way to bring joy and relief to the Iranian people in difficult times, but the opposite is happening. “I look at the matches in this tournament differently: Will the players send a signal again, for example, by not singing along the national anthem, like in the match against England?”

Michael Taheri (65), former player and former referee in Iran
“This is not our team, but the team of the Islamic Republic”

“I watched the first two matches at home with my wife. We were waiting to see how the Iranian football team would lose as they are no longer the voice of the people. Even before the World Cup, the people did not want the Iranian team to travel to Qatar. Now where they’ve gone hurts.

“Politics and football are inextricably linked. In Iran, women are still banned from entering a football stadium. This is precisely why the pictures from Qatar are so harsh. Pro-Iranian women are seen as spectators in the stands in Qatar.

“The Iranian football team and coach Carlos Queiroz have shown nothing but cowardice during the games. At least they should have held back their joy after the win over Wales.

“No signal has been sent out about the frightening situation in Iran. No flashing gesture, no underlying shirt of the protesters killed by Iran. Nothing. My wife cried.

“Especially at a World Cup like this, under the watchful eye of millions of viewers, the players should have done more. The players do not have to be afraid of ending up in jail. Just not singing the national anthem: it felt like a slap in the face to the Iranian people. They should take an example from Iranian former players Ali Daei and Ali Karimi. Or Voria Agori.

“I hope the USA wins over Iran. Preferably by at least 6 goals. The Iranians want to see the team lose. This is not our team, but the Islamic Republic team.

Sepideh Zarrinkelk (32), software developer
‘The regime has turned football into a strange monster’

“Football has always been binding in Iran. Something to look forward to. We were never really the best, but for a WC we formed a front. It is gone. It is ruined. The Iranian regime has turned it into a strange monster.

“Anger, joy, pride, sadness, fear. I can’t find the right word for this World Cup. I feel everything and nothing at the same time. It’s hard to understand.

“I purposely didn’t watch both soccer matches. Only the highlights. I also don’t want to watch the next match against the USA. There is so much going on during and before matches. Demonstrations or people staying outside the stadium because they are not allowed to enter the stadium.

“What should I do? Refreshing constant Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the latest news on Iran.

“I didn’t think it was very strong of them that the players didn’t sing the national anthem for the first game. Rather lax. With all the media attention they get, they can do more. But of course I don’t know what’s in the minds of the footballers . It feels like they’re being held hostage. That they can’t do anymore. It’s clear that they’re trying to do it in a neutral, politically correct way.

“I used to like it if Iran beat the USA. We are often underdogs in football. Now I hope Iran loses so the regime doesn’t have a fake party in the streets of Iran.

“Since the demonstrations, I have become more friends with Dutch Iranians. These miserable times have also brought us together somewhere.”

Mehran Palace (32), electronic music DJ
“I had hoped for more protest from the footballers”

“I am full of conflicting feelings and thoughts when I watch the matches. The team is doing really well. Outstanding even. But I was hoping for more protest from the footballers. They are not using the space that the Iranian footballers have. A true statement would be : Don’t play football.

“FIFA wants nothing to do with politics, but Qatar is one of Iran’s few friendly countries. There is so little room for a political stance that Iran does not like. The Iranian regime sees this World Cup as an opportunity to divert attention from what is going on. Look at the stands. Everyone cheers and sings.

“It is as if the regime in Iran has sent planes full of Iranians from their supporters to Qatar to show and hear that the Iranian people are behind the team. And that everything is okay in Iran.

“The goalkeeper of Iran has kicked it from a wayward child to the goalkeeper of the Iranian national team. Football belongs to the people. It has nothing to do with religion, culture or ideologies. It embroiders. Just like in Holland. There is no Ajax or Feyenoord for a while .Everyone is for Holland during the World Cup.This also applies to Iran.

“I don’t want the football team to dismiss the government’s misdeeds. By creating a friendly atmosphere of joy. Because that’s not true.

“It’s good that the WC is on TV. The presenters tell a lot about what is going on in the country. This keeps it in the spotlight. Now the players.

“Who can win on Tuesday? Hard. I also think America is a f.. country. I secretly hope Iran wins.”

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