U.S. OKs $1 Billion Arms Sale To Qatar During Key World Cup Match With Iran


The coaches of the U.S. and Iranian soccer groups have stated that they don’t need to get caught up in a recreation of political soccer when their sides conflict for an opportunity to succeed in the knockout stage of the World Cup.

“I envision the sport being hotly contested for the truth that each groups need to advance to the following spherical — not due to politics or due to relations between our international locations,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter stated forward of the November 29 showdown at Al-Thumama Stadium in Qatar.

“Our preparation begins with relaxation, refresh the minds, and put all of the complementary and rubbish issues exterior of our minds,” stated Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese head coach of Iran’s nationwide workforce.

However as the 2 coaches try and maintain the give attention to the enjoying area with both workforce assured of advancing to the following spherical with an outright victory, a political fever pitch looms over the sport pitting two international locations that severed relations greater than 40 years in the past and are open rivals on the world stage.

The World Cup has been a showcase of discord in Iran because the event kicked off on November 20, with Tehran’s lethal crackdown on ongoing anti-government demonstrations resulting in recent U.S. sanctions in opposition to Iranian officers and dividing the nation’s fan base.

The Iranian workforce has confronted immense stress from the authorities and protesters alike to take sides amid the demonstrations, that are seen as one of many biggest threats to Iran’s clerical institution because the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The nationwide demonstrations erupted following the September 16 dying of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish lady who died shortly after she was arrested for allegedly violating the state-mandated requirement that girls put on the hijab, or head scarf.

Based on rights watchdogs, at the least 450 folks have been killed and greater than 15,000 detained within the authorities crackdown.

Some followers have honored Amini’s reminiscence by carrying “Mahsa Amini-22” shirts in a nod to her age when she died.

In an obvious signal of solidarity with demonstrators, members of the Iranian workforce didn’t sing the nation’s nationwide anthem forward of their first recreation, a 6-2 loss to England that was blamed partly on exterior distractions. However the gamers did take part singing what anti-government demonstrators have referred to as the “blood anthem” forward of the second recreation, a 2-0 win in opposition to Wales on November 25.

Iran’s nationwide soccer workforce selected to not sing their nation’s anthem earlier than their opening World Cup match in opposition to England on November 21, in an obvious present of help for protesters again dwelling.

Whereas that end result was trigger for mass celebration, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported from Qatar {that a} group of pro-government followers who waved the flag of the Islamic republic harassed and intimidated a gaggle of Iranian supporters who aired their grievances in opposition to the clerical regime.

Following the Wales match, a former coach of the U.S. workforce, Jurgen Klinsmann, got here beneath hearth for his postgame feedback. Talking as a pundit on the BBC, Klinsmann stated the Iranian workforce “labored the referee.” “They work the linesman and fourth official, they’re continually of their ear,” he stated. “There have been numerous incidents we did not see. That is their tradition, they take you off your recreation.”

Queiroz — who coached Iran throughout two stints from 2011 to 2019 and was as soon as employed by U.S. Soccer to develop a street map for america to win a World Cup by 2010 — responded with a torrent of tweets defending Iranian tradition and his workforce. He stated Klinsmann’s feedback had been a “shame to soccer.”

Simply days earlier than the decisive group match, the U.S. Soccer Federation triggered a row when it briefly displayed Iran’s inexperienced, white, and crimson flag with out the logo of the Islamic republic in a social-media submit.

The Iranian authorities responded angrily, with Iran’s hard-line Tasnim information company calling for the U.S. workforce to be kicked out of the World Cup and suspended for 10 video games.

The submit was finally eliminated, with U.S. Soccer explaining that the intention had been to point out “help for the ladies in Iran combating for fundamental human rights” by displaying the Iranian tricolor with out the logo for twenty-four hours.

A fan wears a black ribbon and a T-shirt reading "Woman, life, freedom" in memory of Mahsa Amini prior to the match with Wales on November 25.

A fan wears a black ribbon and a T-shirt studying “Lady, life, freedom” in reminiscence of Mahsa Amini previous to the match with Wales on November 25.

Again in Iran, former members of the Iranian nationwide soccer workforce have apparently been punished for supporting the continuing demonstrations.

Voria Ghafouri, who has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian institution and was surprisingly omitted of this 12 months’s World Cup squad, was reportedly arrested on November 24, simply days after expressing sympathy for Amini’s household and calling for an finish to the violent crackdown on protesters in his and Amini’s native western Kurdistan area.

Iranian state media reported that the 35-year-old Ghafouri had been arrested for “insulting the nationwide soccer workforce and propagandizing in opposition to the federal government.”

Ghafouri earlier this month tweeted that “it’s higher to die standing than to dwell kneeling.” In June, he was accused by an Iranian official of being a Kurdish separatist after the participant tweeted the phrase “Kurdistan” twice.

Iranian media reported that Ghafouri has been launched on bail. However rights teams stated he had been transferred from western Iran to a jail within the capital, Tehran.

Strain has additionally been positioned on an Iranian soccer legend, Ali Daei, who stated he selected to not journey to Qatar because of the authorities’s crackdown and stated on social media on November 28 he had acquired “quite a few threats in opposition to myself and my household in current months and days.”

The Black Reward hacktivist group, which has focused Iranian authorities establishments and infrastructure, added to fears that Tehran was focusing on followers by leaking recordings this week purporting to disclose an Iranian pro-government militia commander saying that Qatar had offered a listing of Iranians who had bought tickets to the World Cup, permitting the Iranian authorities to establish 500 people recognized for anti-government actions.

Whereas Iran may progress with a draw on November 29, it can not afford to lose if it desires to advance to the final 16. America has no possibility however to win.

The U.S. gamers have stated they had been unaware that U.S. Soccer had deliberate to publish its controversial flag submit, whereas additionally publicly declaring their help for ladies’s rights.

The day earlier than the massive match, U.S. coach Berhalter was apologetic for the flag submit but in addition insistent that he was not specializing in the controversies main as much as it.

“After all, our ideas are with the Iranian folks, the entire nation, the entire workforce, everybody, however our focus is on this match,” he stated on November 28.

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