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Followers say Iran vs USA sport a chance for ‘stronger bonds’ | Qatar World Cup 2022 Information

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Doha, Qatar – Political tensions have been excessive between the USA and Iran for greater than half a century, however to some soccer followers gearing as much as watch the 2 nations face off on the World Cup, the gorgeous sport rises above politics.

American-Iranian Shervin Sharifi, 31, is a die-hard soccer fan who collects soccer shirts as a interest. His assortment to this point spans 107 shirts, from numerous golf equipment to nationwide groups. Roughly 40 to 45 of these are from the Iranian nationwide staff alone.

“You’ll be able to say that I’m type of addicted. That is my life. That is what I dwell for,” Sharifi informed Al Jazeera, his voice already coarse from three days of cheering on the video games.

He and his buddies travelled from Dallas, Texas, to help “Crew Melli”, the Iranian nationwide staff, together with on the USA vs Iran match on Tuesday, the place the stakes couldn’t be larger.

After Iran’s 2-0 win over Wales and the 0-0 tie between the USA and England, the People must win tonight’s match to advance to the knock-out levels of the event, whereas the Iranians could solely want a draw. Solely one among them can undergo from Group B. This would be the second time the 2 groups face off in a World Cup.

“I can let you know this for positive — the Iranian gamers have extra ardour for this sport as a result of they’re not simply enjoying for themselves to be a hit; they’ve 80 million folks to make glad at house. That’s a number of weight in your shoulders,” he informed Al Jazeera whereas standing in Doha’s Souq Waqif market.

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Sharifi stated that he recognised that the sport represents extra than simply soccer for a lot of and that there have been protests throughout video games and elsewhere.

Shervin Sharifi standing in front of a shop in Doha, Qatar.
‘Do I believe this sport goes to be one other historic second? Sure I do, as a result of I imagine the [Iran team] are gonna come out and provides all of it they’ll,’ Shervin Sharifi stated [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

“I’m not saying [the USA team] will not be as passionate, however [it’s been] 43 years of this sort of a stranglehold on a rustic,” he stated, referring to the Islamic Republic coming into energy following the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

“When [the Iranian team] steps on that area, they’re not simply enjoying for a sport. They’re enjoying for change.”

For Sharifi, the match between the US and Iran holds a particular significance since he first fell in love with soccer when the 2 groups confronted off in the course of the 1998 World Cup match in Lyon, France. He remembers watching Iran beat the US staff 2-1 when he was seven along with his father, who immigrated from Iran along with his mom.

That match has been described as essentially the most politically charged match within the historical past of the World Cup because of the hostile geopolitical relations between the 2 international locations.

Sharifi stated his father “cared extra [about] the political aspect of the soccer match, and that’s what made me excited. But it surely didn’t matter to me. I used to be very younger. All I noticed was 11 males on the sector, and it blew my thoughts.”

Forward of the match in 1998, tensions couldn’t have been larger. Iran Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even threatened to tug the staff out of the sport as he didn’t need the gamers shaking fingers with the US staff as protocol dictates.

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However the gamers took a unique strategy. Each groups posed for an improvised picture collectively on the sector — an iconic second — and the Iranian gamers gave bouquets of white flowers to their opponents as an emblem of peace.

“Wanting again at 1998, that was a unifying second bringing the Iran and US collectively,” Sharifi stated.

iran us
USA’s Thomas Dooley challenges Iran’s Khodadad Azizi on the 1998 World Cup match [File: Darren Walsh/Action Images via Reuters]

Lots has modified since that World Cup sport, and forward of Tuesday’s match, the main target of tensions in Iran has unfold past considerations with the US.

For weeks, protests have been ongoing in Iran over the loss of life in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in September for “unsuitable apparel”.

Youngsters have been amongst greater than a dozen folks killed this month in a surge of protests.

In Iran’s first sport towards England, the staff didn’t sing the nationwide anthem, which was interpreted as a gesture of help for the protests.

Throughout their second match towards Wales, the staff did sing the anthem however in a reserved method, as Al Jazeera’s Maziar Motamedi reported.

“Crew Melli is a means for us to carry a highlight to this concern … the second that the Iranian nationwide staff didn’t sing the nationwide anthem, all people was reporting it,” Sharifi stated.

Vignesh Ram, 37, an American-Canadian who travelled from the San Francisco Bay Space, is in Qatar along with his father to cheer for the US staff.

Ram believes that soccer generally is a unifying drive and isn’t targeted on the political tensions between the 2 international locations.

Vignesh Ram with his father at a World Cup match in Qatar.
Vignesh Ram is pictured at a World Cup match in Qatar along with his father [Courtesy of Vignesh Ram]

“For US followers of soccer, travelling internationally offers a chance to achieve many extra views,” he stated. “It brings folks collectively in a means that’s really significant, and the [US] staff has by no means been nice, so there’s much less to lose. There’s much less nationwide satisfaction on the road.”

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“I really suppose it’s a greater alternative to forge stronger bonds.”

Ram sees these video games as a chance to grasp what people who find themselves not from the US are going via each day.

“Soccer reminds us that international locations will not be their governments, and they’re the truth is their folks,” he stated. “I believe we see this always throughout this event, particularly with many controversies surrounding it. You see the methods gamers have engaged in several types of protests.”

Sharifi from Dallas agrees that soccer can encourage empathy however admits that it’s tough to not join nationwide groups to the politics of their international locations.

“Individuals are not simply coming for soccer now; that’s a factor of the previous. It has a political contingent with it,” he stated, including that he believes one thing optimistic can come from these political attachments to the sport.

“US followers are going to be sympathetic to the Iranian folks as a result of, on the finish of the day, the Iranian individuals are not the Iranian authorities.”

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