Iran, U.S. meet in politically charged World Cup match

Tensions between the two countries were already high before the World Cup.

Updated: November 29, 2022 - 12:00pm

Iran and the United States will compete Tuesday in a politically charged World Cup soccer game in Qatar –days after the U.S Soccer Federation showed support for the human rights protests against the Islamic Republic and the Iran team responded with calling for the American team to be expelled from the competition.

The two nations last faced off in the World Cup 24 years ago, according to the Associated Press

The U.S. Soccer Federation briefly posted a photo on social media over the weekend of Iran's flag without the Islamic Republic emblem in support of the ongoing human rights protests against Tehran's theocratic regime.

Iranian Football Federation legal adviser Safia Allah Faghanpour has said his team will file a complaint against the U.S. team, according to the semiofficial state news outlet Tasnim News Agency.

"Respecting a nation's flag is an accepted international practice that all other nations must emulate. The action conducted in relation to the Iranian flag is unethical and against international law," he said. 

The Iranian news outlet said "a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty" for the U.S. team.

However, Tuesday's match is still set to be played.

U.S. men's soccer head coach Gregg Berhalter on Monday apologized for the social media post, during a press conference where he was grilled by Iranian state media.

The team was reportedly unaware of what federation had done.

Iranian reporters asked Berhalter why people with an Iranian passport could not travel to the United States and why he had not told the U.S. government to remove its military from the Persian Gulf, Yahoo!Sports reported.

"I can only reiterate that the players and the staff knew nothing about what was being posted," Berhalter said. "Sometimes things are out of our control."

Tensions between the two countries were already high before the World Cup.

Although the Biden administration was attempting to reenter a nuclear deal with Iran, the State Department said last month that the deal is "not our focus right now."  Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic has reportedly been plotting murders abroad, including that of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The human rights protest follow the death of 21-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who died while in police custody after being arrested for allegedly violating the government's law requiring women wearing headscarfs.