U.S. Soccer social accounts briefly alter Iran flag in World Cup posts

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DOHA, Qatar — The United States Soccer Federation displayed altered images of Iran’s flag on some of its social media accounts, a change that drew attention ahead of the national team’s World Cup match US men’s against the Iranians. The federation said the change was intended to show solidarity with the protests in the country and that it had been reversed on Sunday, returning to the official flag.

The alteration, which was visible on the US men’s national team’s social media accounts, removed a symbol in the middle of the flag associated with Iran’s clerical leaders.

The image of the banner to that of the team Twitter account Sunday morning featured a flag that includes Iran’s colors (red, green and white), but did not include a symbol that was added after the 1979 revolution, depicting a stylized representation of the word “God” . A similar image was included in a recent tweet about qualifying for Group B. On Sunday afternoon, the official flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran replaced the altered image on the American team’s Twitter account.

Iran will face the United States on Tuesday, the final group game for both teams.

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In a statement early Sunday, the USSF, which oversees all national teams, said the decision was made in recent days to “show support for women in Iran who are fighting for basic human rights.” The changes were temporary, the federation said.

A State Department official said the decision was not a coordinated effort between the department and the USSF. Players on the US men’s national team were also not connected.

“We knew nothing about the posts, but we are supporters of women’s rights, always have been,” US defender Walker Zimmerman said at a news conference.

American soccer players said on Nov. 27 that they support women’s rights after the U.S. Soccer Federation briefly posted altered images of Iran’s flag on social media. (Video: Reuters)

Protests in Iran erupted in September after a young woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody. They have since become a national uprising channeling a series of grievances against Iran’s clerical leaders. Hundreds of people have died during the authorities’ crackdown on protests, according to human rights groups.

Iran’s World Cup victory sparks joy, but tensions remain over protests

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During Iran’s previous two games, tensions arose between supporters and opponents of the government, including over the flag, with some anti-government critics waving a pre-revolutionary flag or obscuring the current flag’s symbol with black ribbon Vigorous debates have occurred within the protest movement over which flag should be displayed.

The changes appeared on the men’s national team social media accounts but not on the USSF website. For example, the page featuring the next program shows the Iranian flag with the post-revolution symbol.

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, declined to comment on the flag alteration.

European teams will not use LGBTQ armbands at World Cup after threats from FIFA

The USSF has previously taken steps to show support for marginalized groups at this World Cup. In a media room at the team’s training center outside Doha, a large USSF logo on a wall features rainbow colors instead of red and blue, in support of the LGBTQ+ community. The display comes amid concerns over the treatment of LGBTQ supporters in Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation that criminalises homosexuality, as well as FIFA’s efforts to play down the rainbow symbol, even saying that would penalize players wearing rainbow armbands.

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There was no immediate reaction from Iran’s government to the flag alteration. A commentary published on the website of Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency on Sunday called the removal of the symbol a “strange and insulting action that was undoubtedly aimed at creating tension and destroying the focus of the “Iranian team”.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Iran, but is engaged in a series of delicate negotiations with the country through third-party intermediaries, including an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

Experts explain what exactly Iran’s moral police are doing and why women are risking their lives on the front lines to fight it. (Video: Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)

John Hudson contributed to this report.

World Cup in Qatar

USMNT: The United States faced England in their second game of the World Cup on Friday. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, leaving the U.S. feeling good about their performance, but also leaving Group B very uneasy heading into Tuesday’s final.

Political protest: The backdrop looming over Iran’s World Cup campaign is a nationwide protest movement at home targeting its clerical leadership, and the inescapable and lingering tensions they are spreading in the field.

Perspective: The beautiful game is fine. Suitcases full of cash are better. Read Sally Jenkins on the human rights controversy in Qatar.



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