Iran state media has called for the United States to be thrown out of the World Cup after the U.S. Soccer Federation changed the Iranian flag on social media to show solidarity with protestors.
Rather than showing the Iranian flag, the federation showed only the tri-colors of the Islamic Republic, with no middle emblem, across its social media accounts for 24 hours. The day-long change stemmed from “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” though the federation’s intention was always to revert back to the original flag, a spokesperson told CNN.
U.S. Soccer continued to ensure that it “was a one-time graphic” and that the flag primarily used for Iran is on “our website and other places.” It has since returned to use across the federation’s social media accounts.
Iran state media reported Sunday that the United States should be kicked out of the tournament, which is currently averaging 2.6 million viewers per match—a 24 percent increase to the 2018 tournament at 2.1 million. They also called for the suspension of ten games due to the “distorted image” of the country’s flag.
Tasnim News Agency, an Iran state-aligned news agency, took to Twitter Sunday to express its contempt for the federation’s actions.
“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,” It wrote. “For which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty. Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022”
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 pic.twitter.com/c8I4i4z3Tv
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) November 27, 2022
On Monday, USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter claimed that the team was completely out of the loop regarding the decision to change the flag.
“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 routine press conference on Monday.
Meanwhile, in another press conference ahead of the much-anticipated fixture between the USMNT and Iran, an Iranian reporter asked midfielder Tyler Adams if he is comfortable representing the U.S., given the way the country treats Black people—a seemingly tongue-in-cheek inquiry.
Adams responded with a rather straightforward answer, saying that there is “discrimination wherever you go” and that living abroad had made him realize the U.S. has “continued to make progress.” Adams currently plays for Leeds United in England, but also previously spent time with German club RB Leipzig.
The entire 2022 World Cup is seemingly sprinkled with subtle tones of controversy, with the host taking center stage. Qatar won the WC bid in December of 2010—it is the second Asian country to host the tournament and is the first to be held in the winter.
An article in the Guardian cites the divisiveness as being rooted in suspected corruption as well as a dubious human rights record, with the country acting generally hostile toward LGBTQ+ people. However, the country’s treatment of migrant workers in the frenzy of construction for the upcoming tournament is considered to be the main factor.
According to a February 2021 Guardian report, an estimated 6,500 migrant workers had died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded to the country. The article cites the average high temperatures (100F for five months of the year), accidents, illnesses, and suicide for the alarming number of casualties.
Amnesty International reported in 2021 that Qatar was “routinely [issuing] death certificates for migrant workers without conducting adequate investigations, instead attributing deaths to natural causes’ or vaguely defined “cardiac failures.'” That sheer volume of death certificates makes it nearly impossible for families of the dead workers to claim compensation.