USA vs. Iran is anything but a hate duel among fans. Rather, Iranians are afraid because their protests are being banned in Qatar and allegedly Iranian units are up to mischief. Some recognize the "clash between West and East" - and are happy about support from Russia.
Iranian fans are making their mark on the World Cup by continuing protests in Qatar against the brutal mullahs' regime at home. With flags, slogans, paintings - and blowing hair. Now the most political game of the World Cup is coming up for them. The duel with the USA is narrowly lost 0-1, but there are other issues that concern people.
Many viewers initially feel nothing of an additional, politicized explosiveness. In front of the stadium, fans of both nations show themselves in many fraternal poses, hugs, including tons of selfies. "People in Iran have always liked the USA," says an English woman of Iranian descent, explaining this with the influence of music and film, among other things. "Only the governments hate each other." An Iranian family man sees it the same way and points out that in the long US-Iranian history there were also times when Washington supported Tehran.
In any case, something else is more important to the Iranians this evening in Doha. Satan is not (anymore) the USA - if it ever was. It is their regime at home. But the protest against the mullahs is also becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous in Qatar. If you still see a lot of flags and T-shirts with the battle cry of the resistance ("Women, Life, Freedom" - "Zan, Zendegi, Azadi") in the first game, there is not much left of it in the duel against the USA. The atmosphere is even more tense, people are far more hesitant to talk than they were a week ago.
The English woman with the Iranian family supports the demonstrations, but doesn't dare to show any signs of protest. There are too many regime friends on the road, she says. Her friend Ida, a US-born Iranian, agrees that "everyone's a little more scared now." Hear that "Iran's Revolutionary Guardsmen are in Qatar." The family man and his wife also explain: "Of course we're scared, we've already seen Iranian security guards taking photos of Iranian fans." They still want to demonstrate openly because they hope for real democracy and a better future at home - pointing to their ten-year-old daughter.
According to a report by CNN, citing a source involved in the security of the games, dozens of Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers are actually at the World Cup in Qatar. The elite unit of the armed forces, which is classified as a terrorist organization in the USA, has long been a political and economic power - and it beats the demonstrators down hard because they would have to pack up if the regime fell.
Ida, the Iranian from the USA, carries two small signs with her. "They wanted to take security at the entrance away from me," she says. "I then hid them under my shirt." It is written on it: Sahar Khodayari. In March 2019, the Iranian, also known as the "Blue Girl" - blue was the color of her favorite club - tried to dress up as a man to watch a football game in Iran, which is banned for women nationwide. She was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison. As she left the court, the 29-year-old set herself on fire in protest and died of her burns in hospital
"I came to the World Cup specifically to remind the world public of Sahar's name," says Ida. "What is happening in Iran and how they treat women like dirt is disgusting." She doesn't shy away from seeing a photo of herself posted because she lives in the US.
But it seems as if the Tehran regime is also flexing its muscles in Qatar and is cracking down with the help of the desert state's security guards. Not only Ida's signs are in danger, all "Women, Life, Freedom" articles are confiscated at the entrances, as several reports. "I even had to wipe off my self-painted small face tattoo of the protest," says one Iranian woman. "Security is watching very closely here because Qatar and Iran are cooperating."
In fact, almost only the original flags of the Islamic Republic are still flying, while many changed flags could be seen in the previous duels, in which the national emblem, which shows the word Allah (God) in stylized Persian-Arabic script, is replaced by a football is replaced. The US association also posted this flag on social media before the duel to "show our solidarity with the women in Iran". The Iranian association did not accept that, lodged a complaint, and a little later the regular logo was visible again.
This time, the many flags before the USA duel will also be waved by many "stadium tourists" who are believed to come from Bangladesh or India. "There are a few fake fans out there who get money from the Iranian government," says the father, who said he knew it from the start. Two Iranians in their early 20s who now live in the Netherlands confirm that. "They're trying to give the media and the stadium a false image. They all wear the flag of the Islamic Republic and tell lies, you can tell that straight away," they say both whose "Women, Life, Freedom" shirts were tried to be taken away at the entrance before the game against Wales. The young women are "absolutely" against the regime because the families at home would suffer greatly. They are therefore "only half-heartedly involved today, unfortunately" because they know "that the government is taking advantage of the football team's success".
The mullah regime not only wants to take advantage of the success, but also want to send the right pictures. Against both Wales and the USA, the Iranian side sing the national anthem again after their silence from the first game against England. More tormented though, and there's probably a good reason for that. The above CNN disclosure also reports that the Iranian players have been pressured by the Revolutionary Guards with threats of torture against their families at home.
Shortly before kick-off, two Iranians hold up a political message for the USA to the camera. They are calling on President Joe Biden to lift sanctions on medicine and other cures. They find the regime in Tehran "not bad". An Iranian journalist goes even further in the stadium elevator. He also suspects the Revolutionary Guards in Qatar, but simply because the mullahs maintain close ties with Qatar, just like the United States.
According to the journalist, the game will be "the clash of the century, the clash between East and West". He says proudly: "Today they hung up a huge banner in Moscow to support the Iranian team." And there is one in China too. Worlds collide here.