The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) briefly altered the flag of Iran in social media posts on multiple platforms ahead of the U.S. men’s team’s critical match with the Islamic Republic at the World Cup on Tuesday.
The move comes amidst a controversial World Cup in Qatar, the first time soccer’s biggest tournament has been hosted in the Middle East. The American team temporarily changed its banner on social media, showing the teams’ standings and including the Iranian flag with just the green, white, and red stripes, leaving out the Islamic Republic emblem typically at the center.
“We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours,” USSF said in a statement Sunday, according to the Associated Press, adding that the women and protesters there were “fighting for basic human rights.”
US Soccer will restore the Islamic Republic emblem to Iran’s flag after briefly removing it. “We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours.” State-affiliated Tasnim reports the Iranian FF will ask FIFA to ban the #USMNT for 10 games. pic.twitter.com/nAqr2k3gqJ
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) November 27, 2022
The team has since changed its banner on Twitter and replaced the posts to include the Islamic Republic emblem. Posts on both Twitter and Instagram from Friday showed the emblem until Sunday morning when they appeared to be deleted. The official U.S. Soccer website shows the flag with the emblem.
Semi-official Tasnim News Agency has reportedly called on FIFA to ban the United States from the tournament for the action, asking for at least a ten-game suspension. They say that a FIFA rule warns against “any person who offends the dignity or integrity of a country, a person, or a group of people.”
Protests in Iran have intensified since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the government’s morality police on September 16. Since then, at least 416 people have been killed, including 51 children and 27 women by “security forces,” according to Iran Human Rights.
The emblem that U.S. soccer removed shows four curves around a sword and represents the Islamic saying, “There is no god but God.” Iranian state media describes the emblem as the “symbol of Allah.” The flag has been used to make political statements at this year’s World Cup, with some waving a version with the emblem, appearing to be pro-government, and others waving the Iranian flag with a lion and sun, which is a pre-revolutionary flag, according to the Associated Press.
“They must be held responsible,” Safiollah Fagahanpour, an Iran Football Federation adviser, was quoted by ISNA news. “Obviously they want to affect Iran’s performance against the U.S. by doing this,” he continued, adding that the “measures taken regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran Flag are against the law [of FIFA].”
This World Cup was controversial before it even began, with many around the globe criticizing the choice of Qatar as the host nation because of alleged human rights violations. Due to Qatar’s size, it had to build seven stadiums, renovate an eighth, and improve its infrastructure to accommodate an estimated one million fans.
These improvements came with a high price tag. Qatar spent an estimated $300 billion, making it the most expensive World Cup in history. The construction of the stadiums was due in part to migrant workers from nearby countries, many of whom criticized the host nation for working conditions and alleged human rights violations.
The United States men’s team plays Iran on Tuesday in a high-stakes match. Both nations are in Group B, where the current standings are: England with four points, Iran with three points, the U.S. with two points, and Wales with one point. To advance to the knockout stage, the United States must beat Iran, which would give them three more points.