United States

US Soccer deletes posts after altering Iranian flag to show support for protestors

The Iranian federation planned to file a complaint with FIFA after U.S. Soccer deleted the Islamic Republic emblem from Iran’s flag on social media posts to show support for protestors there. The posts were later taken down.

The tensions have escalated ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup match between the two countries in Qatar, which will decide which squad will advance out of Group B.

U.S. Soccer posted a graphic Saturday of the group standings on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram showing the green, white and red Iranian flag without the emblem, with a U.S. spokesperson adding the move was intended to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”

U.S. Soccer added that it was a one-time display and future social media posts are expected to use Iran’s official flag, the Associated Press reported. U.S. Soccer also said the posts with the altered flag would be taken down, and they were deleted Sunday morning. A Sunday post about Tuesday’s game featured Iran’s official flag.

The USMNT social media accounts posted the Group B World Cup standings featuring an Iranian flag without the Islamic Republic emblem. The posts were later deleted.

“Clearly the decision we made was to show support for the women in Iran. That stands,” a U.S. Soccer spokesperson told The Athletic. “This is our decision, not anyone else’s or pressure from anyone else.”

Tasnim News, Iran’s state-affiliated media agency, reported Sunday that the legal advisor of the Iranian Football Federation said a complaint will be filed to FIFA’s Ethics Committee requesting the U.S. team be booted from the tournament.

“According to section 13 of FIFA rules, any person who offends the dignity or integrity of a country, a person or group of people … shall be sanctioned with a suspension lasting at least ten matches or a specific period, or any other appropriate disciplinary measure,” Tasnim News Agency tweeted. “By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran on its official account, the US football team breached the FIFA charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty. Team USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022.”

Supporters wave the Iranian flag before the Iran-Wales World Cup match on Nov. 25, 2022.
Supporters wave the Iranian flag in Qatar before the Iran-Wales World Cup match on Nov. 25, 2022.

At least 450 people have died and more than 18,000 have been arrested, according to human rights advocacy groups, in protests in Iran since the suspicious death in Tehran in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab in violation of the country’s conservative dress code.

Iranian players refused to sing the country’s national anthem before a 6-2 loss in their first match of the World Cup last week against England, with team captain Ehsan Hajsafi saying protestors “should know that we are with them.”

The USMNT needs a victory Tuesday over Iran to advance to the Round of 16 after drawing in each of its first two matches against Wales and England.

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