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Iran's defeat in the World Cup.. America “ends the dream” at “Al-Thumama” stadium

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Iran’s defeat in the World Cup.. America “ends the dream” at “Al-Thumama” stadium

The United States beat its archenemy Iran in a World Cup football match overshadowed by the protests in Tehran and decades of political tension.

The match was held between the two teams of the two countries, which severed their relations more than 40 years ago, amid security reinforcements to prevent the escalation of tension related to the unrest sweeping Iran since the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, while she was being held by the “morality police” on September 16th.

In a show of solidarity before the match, the US Soccer Federation temporarily displayed Iran’s national flag without the “emblem of the Islamic Republic,” prompting Tehran, according to state media, to file a complaint with FIFA.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have worsened since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump abandoned Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, and efforts to save the agreement stalled under President Joe Biden’s administration.

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

The United States won 1-0 to qualify for the knockout rounds, while Iran was eliminated from the tournament.

“Carlos Queiroz”, coach of the Iranian national team, commented on his team’s defeat, against the US national team, with a goal for free, at the end of the group stage, from the Qatar 2022 World Cup finals, by saying that “the dream has ended.”

Tensions dominate

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

Additional security personnel, some on horseback, patrolled outside the stadium before the match while guards around the perimeter required Iranians to unfurl their flags before entering. Police were stationed around the stadium alongside regular security guards, some wielding batons.

Early in the second half, a group of fans briefly raised the letters “Mahsa Amini”, to applause from the Iranian fans around them. Security personnel pulled down the banners but allowed them to remain in their seats.

Not my national team

Before the match, some fans outside Al Thumama Stadium sought to shed light on the protests that the authorities in Iran have been trying to put down for more than two months.

“Everyone should know about this,” said an Iranian living in the United States. “We don’t have a voice in Iran.”

He lifted his shirt to reveal a shirt bearing the demonstrators’ slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” underneath.

Speaking on the phone from Tehran shortly before kick-off, Elham said she wanted the United States to win because the national team’s victory would be a gift to the Iranian authorities.

“This is not my national team,” she said. “It is the mullahs’ team.”

Iran’s players refused to chant the national anthem in their first match, in which they were defeated 6-2 by England, and chanted the anthem before their second match, which they won 2-0 against Wales.

The unrest sweeping Iran is one of the boldest challenges the theocratic government has faced since 1979. Washington has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials for cracking down on protests.

The United States and Iran severed their official relations in 1980 after the Iranian revolution, and when the two countries’ football teams met in the 1998 World Cup, Iran won 2-1.

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