When the US and Iran groups meet in Qatar on Tuesday, they are going to be doing so with the protests and violence which have convulsed Iran – threatening the very nature of the regime that has been in energy for greater than 40 years – as its backdrop. But this isn’t the primary time that the 2 nations have met on a soccer pitch beneath the pressure of geopolitical tensions.
The US had certified for the 1998 World Cup in France, and in December 1997, it was drawn in the identical group as Germany, Yugoslavia and, most importantly, Iran. That was the primary time that Iran and the US, typically described formally in Iran because the ‘Great Satan.’ Just like this time in 2022, when the US performed Iran in 1998, it was a must-win match for the US if it was to progress to the knockout phases.
“That was a little bit of a distraction,” Steve Sampson advised CNN Sport, including that FIFA wished the build-up to solely be concerning the match and, as a comparatively younger 41-year-old coach, he ensured his crew talks have been about “soccer and nothing else.”
With hindsight, Sampson stated he regrets that strategy, including that he might have motivated his facet by speaking concerning the political historical past between the 2 nations.
On the eve of the match, the Iranian crew acquired orders from its authorities to not shake fingers, which was FIFA protocol, with the Americans.
“We got here to the conclusion that as an alternative of who walks in direction of who, we can have a joint crew picture taken,” Younes Masoudi advised FIFATV in 2018.
So on the night of June 21, at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland, the gamers took to the pitch and in a choreographed pregame ceremony, Iranian gamers introduced their opponents with white roses as a image of peace and the groups posed for a picture collectively.
“I’ll do not forget that picture for the remainder of my life,” Jalal Talebi, Iran’s then-coach who resided within the US on the time, as soon as stated in an interview with the Guardian. But Sampson stated the pre-match ceremony “barely took away from our focus within the recreation.”
There was excessive safety. “We had 150 armed police, which was unprecedented for a World Cup match. I stated we have to convey these 150 and encompass this group of followers with a purpose to cease them from invading the pitch,” Masoudi advised FIFATV within the 2018 interview.
Iran received 2-1 — its first at a World Cup — prompting wild celebrations in Tehran. The New York Times reported on the time that “hundreds of celebrating followers took to the streets, some girls with out their scarves.”
The match remained on the forefront of Sampson’s thoughts for years. “It was devastating, heart-breaking to lose to Iran,” he stated. “We have been upset extra in order that we did not advance within the World Cup.”
“What occurred on that pitch throughout these two hours was a lesson to the entire world at giant that regardless of our variations, even supposing we might come from totally different backgrounds, we are able to dwell peacefully collectively,” Masoudi advised FIFATV in 2018.