Tension before Iran vs. the United States: “They are pronouncing it wrong, it is disrespectful”

Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams had their first tough test against Iran off the pitch. It was in conference room 2 of the Main Media Center in Qatar 2022. In a tense and heated press conference, the coach and captain of the United States Soccer Team tried to tiptoe through the controversies of recent hours; above all, the US Soccer social media post that omitted the symbol of the Islamic Republic from the flag of Iran. The episode led the Football Federation of Iran to formally request the exclusion of the USMNT from Qatar 2022, for violating article 13 of the FIFA regulations, considering it a grievance against the country.

Shield/Team Flag
Shield/Team Flag

“The players and we don’t know anything about what was posted. There are times when things are not in our control. We don’t focus on all these outside things. The only thing we can do is apologize on behalf of the staff and the players”, Gregg Berhalter tried to lower the spirits, without much success. Shortly before that response, Berhalter and Adams were rebuked by an Iranian reporter: “First of all, they are mispronouncing Iran. It’s not ‘Airan’. It’s ‘Iran’. It is disrespectful to us (…) In the United States there is also discrimination and racism, as demonstrated by Black Lives Matter. What do they have to say?” Adams responded diplomatically: “Yes, there is discrimination wherever you go. One thing you learn from being in other places and with other cultures is that in the US we are making progress every day. The sample is that we can learn from everyone, as you taught me to correctly pronounce the name of your country. It’s okay, I didn’t know (…) I grew up in a family of African American heritage and I know the obstacles we have been through. Yes, it is a process. We are open to continue educating ourselves and progressing”.

Berhalter took pains to direct the discussion towards the match tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 29, at Al Thumama: “I think this is just a game between two good teams. Nothing more. “I grew up admiring coach Queiroz. They are a great team and it will be a knockout match. We need to win, it will be quite a challenge (…) “It is very difficult to score in the World Cup. We have defended very well. In this match we need to score. That has to happen. We will be calm to achieve our game”. Almost at the end of the appearance came another political question (“an American is welcome in our country, but an Iranian is not in his”) to which Berhalter responded curtly: “I am not interested in international politics. I’m a soccer coach.”

The memory of France ’98

24 years ago, the US and Iran clashed in Lyon. The Persians won the 1-2 victory in what is, so far, the only precedent for both teams in World Cups. Gregg Berhalter did not play that match (he was not called up), but commented on it for Dutch television. “That game stayed in my head forever. I remember very well. Iran really wanted to win the game and they did. Their determination was noticeable from the first second. We don’t want to make the same mistakes of the past.”. He concluded: “It is very difficult to score in the World Cup. We have defended very well. In this game we need to score. That has to happen. We will be calm to achieve our game “

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