Qatar November 29, 2022: Iran state media has called for the US to be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup after the United States Soccer Federation changed Iran’s flag on its social media platforms to show support for protesters in Iran.
The federation had temporarily displayed Iran’s national flag on its official Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts without the emblem of the Islamic Republic. A now-deleted graphic of the Group B standings posted on Saturday displayed the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white and red colors.
US Soccer told CNN on Sunday that it wanted to change the official flag for 24 hours to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights” but always planned to go back to the original flag.
The change “was a one-time graphic,” US Soccer told CNN. “We have the main flag on our website and other places.” The emblem is currently back on the flag on US Soccer’s social media channels.
A spokesperson for the State Department told CNN it did not coordinate with US Soccer in the sporting body’s decision to change Iran’s flag on its social media accounts to show support for protesters in Iran.
“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 State Department told CNN.
Iran state media reported Sunday that the United States should be immediately kicked out of the tournament and suspended for 10 games for a “distorted image” of the country’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,” Iran state-aligned Tasnim news agency wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Team USA should be kicked out of the WorldCup2022.”
FIFA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Iran and the US play each other on Tuesday in a crucial Group B match. It is a must-win tie for the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) if it is to progress to the knockout stages.
On Monday, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said the team “had no idea what US Soccer put out” but did apologize for the display.
“The staff, the players, we had no idea … Our focus is on this match and I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that,” said Berhalter in a regularly scheduled news conference on Monday.
“Of course are thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone. But our focus is on this match.
“Sometimes things are out of our control,” added Berhalter. “We believe that it’s going to be a match that the result will depend on who puts more effort in and who executes better on the field.
“We’re not focused on those outside things and 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.”
Berhalter insisted any noise surrounding Tuesday’s match was not impacting the preparation of the US players.
“What I see from this group is this tremendous amount of focus,” said Berhalter. “There is no real distractions. I know there is a lot going on here but the group is focused on how to get a win.”
Iran is appearing at this World Cup under the shadow of domestic turmoil. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Chief, Volker Turk, has said that the country is in a “full-fledged human rights crisis” as authorities clamp down on anti-regime dissidents.
Protests, referred to by experts as the most significant since the establishment of clerical rule following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and violence have rocked Iran in recent months and threatened the very nature of the country’s regime, which has been in power for more than 40 years.
It was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran’s morality police, allegedly for not abiding by the country’s conservative dress code. Iranian security forces have unleashed a violent response.