Fans brace for politically charged U.S.-Iran match at World Cup


DOHA, Nov 29 (Reuters) Diplomatic foes the United States and Iran face off on the pitch at the World Cup on Tuesday in a match that some Iranians fear may see further run-ins with stadium security or clashes with pro-government fans over raging protests back home.

The contest between the two nations that severed ties over 40 years ago will be held with increased security to prevent a flare up of tensions over the unrest that has gripped Iran since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16.

In a show of solidarity ahead of the match, the U.S. Soccer Federation temporarily displayed Iran’s national flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic, leading Tehran to complain to FIFA, according to state media.

Qatar, which has strong ties with Washington and friendly relations with Tehran, has staked its reputation on delivering a smooth World Cup, beefing up security at Iran games and banning some items deemed inflammatory, like Iran’s pre-Revolution flag.

When Iran beat Wales on Friday, security teams were deployed to “break up a small number of altercations” between Iranian fans outside the stadium, a Qatari official said, adding the incidents were dealt with “swiftly” to contain tensions.

“I will not attend the game on Tuesday since I do not feel safe in Qatar,” said Iranian-Canadian Azi, declining to give her last name and who was wearing a
“Qatar is conducting the same censorship system as what is going on in Iran Also FIFA is to take the blame,” she told Reuters about being stopped by stadium security for her attire.

Hila Yadegar, 37, plans to be at the match to show support for protesters even though she and her husband were both briefly held by stadium guards at the Iran-Wales match and despite voicing similar unease over security in the Gulf Arab state.

“I put a chair behind our room in the hotel even though it was locked,” said Yadegar, who works in a hospital in Canada. When asked about fan safety concerns and complaints about restrictions, a Qatari official said authorities would ensure all World Cup matches are “safe and welcoming for all spectators”. rice field.

Items that “could increase tension and endanger the safety of fans” are not allowed inside the stadium, officials said.

Politics permeated the tournament, which was held for the first time in a Middle Eastern country, and the Iranian team was pressured to side with protesters.

Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem in their first match against England, losing 6–2. They sang the national anthem before the second game in which he won 2–0 against Wales. Iranian fans wear T-shirts with pictures of Supreme Leaders Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top commander killed in a US drone strike in 2020 after Friday’s victory sang about fans expressing support for the voiced protesters.

Iran’s nationwide unrest represents one of the most audacious challenges to the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The United States and Iran cut formal ties in the wake of her 1980 revolution, and relations were hostile when the two countries football teams met at the 1998 World Cup. Iran won 2-1 in a match called “the mother of all football games”.