USA Defeats Iran in the World Cup

Meghan Carr

The United States men’s soccer team beat Iran 1-0 this past Tuesday in Qatar, which secured them a spot in the cup’s Group B round of 16. The second-half of the match saw some incredibly tense moments, including injuries of US player Josh Sargent and goal scorer Christian Pulisic. The Iranians then picked up the pace as they only required a draw to advance. Iran’s Abolfazl Jalali received a yellow card late in the game and another Iranian player Yunus Musah dragged an American player down by his jersey. There were a total of nine stoppage time minutes that included a ball cleared off the U.S. goal line and a penalty review when an Iranian player fell in the box. U.S. defender Cameron Carter-Vickers put up great defense against the whole game, especially to clear a last-minute Iranian header that could have sent the US home. 

This was clearly a hard-fought game for both countries. However, it was played amongst the backdrop the current Iranian women’s protests raging the country. And this truly took center stage, emulating beyond a game. Nearly two months ago, widespread protests caught traction in Iran following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish Iranian woman who ‘failed’ to properly veil her hair and was arrested and beaten into a state of a coma by Tehran and later died. Tehran is Iran’s “morality police” who strictly follow and harshly enforce Islamic doctrine, especially on Iranian women. Under Iranian law, women are required to cover their body in loose clothing and their hair in head scarfs known as hijabs. Any minor misstep, an exposed limb or hair, can result in damaging penalties. Irian police issued a public statement that Mahsa Amini died due to a heart attack in the detention facility. Her family has refuted this claim, saying that their daughter was in perfect health before she went to the detention center. 

Today, the country is still mourning over this horrific, innocent death. Protesters, predominantly women and youth, daily fill the streets since the incident, protesting the violence of Iranian security forces, fearlessly calling for “women, life, liberty”. They want personal, civil, economic, and social reforms. The protests have divided the country and both sects are trying to use their national soccer team to advance their platform and cause. In a news conference before the match, the US coach and team captain were questioned by Iranain journalists who made long political statements and then asked the Americans to explain why U.S. warships are currently in the Persian Gulf, as well as the status of US race relations. 

Many Iranian players have openly supported the demonstrations, to which the government silenced them by a threat of retaliation. Many protesters are calling their silence cowardly and demand that they make a public statement about their standing. Before their first game in Qatar, the players draped their arms over one another and did not sing for their national anthem. They did sing their national anthem for the second game against Wales, however, and riot police celebrated.

Regardless of the player’s views or the right moral stand on the issue, this year’s World Cup proves that soccer is not immune to political upheaval. Yet, it also shows the power in playing for something much bigger than a trophy or money;  the Iranain team was seen as an icon and compared their team to the soccer superpower Brazil. After the game ended and many Iranian players dropped to their knees on the pitch from the overwhelming and devastating defeat, many US players went up and comforted them. They proved that true sportsmanship and humanity can combat political differences.  

Many Hingham High students took notice of the high stakes surrounding the US v. Iran game. Junior Charlotte Sweeny says, “I heard the game was well-played by both countries.” Similarly, Liz Schembri comments, “I thought it was really cool that the Iranian players were trying to stand up for the women being harmed in their country!”