The United States’ victory over the Iranian team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Tuesday may have been equally celebrated in America and Iran by those protesting the “ruthless” regime there, but serious consequences could be looming for the players as experts warn leaders unlikely “to suddenly become rational.”
Aside from the soccer at the men’s tournament, a key focus of the Qatar-hosted sporting event has remained the opposition from visitors to the nation’s laws on public decency and morality. This has been especially true as it pertains to ongoing protests in Iran sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for improperly wearing a hijab.
Videos spread across social media of Iranians showing their support of the symbolic victory in their home country after the USMNT scored their solitary goal in the 1-0 win over Iran.
— Len Khodorkovsky (@MessageFromLen) November 30, 2022
Watch Iranians celebrate the defeat of the Islamic Regime's team against the US. This is on Iranian soil. It cannot get more humiliating than this for Khamenei and his #IRGC cronies. #mahsaami̇ni̇ pic.twitter.com/KhV7HUkHdZ
— Fatima Alasrar (@YemeniFatima) November 29, 2022
Speaking to the sentiment, an Iranian woman calling herself Mahoora spoke with Fox News Digital and explained, “It’s not just some people in Iran, it is the majority of people in Iran that want the U.S. to win (on Tuesday). The silent majority [of Iranians] did not celebrate the regime team’s victory over Wales.”
According to the outlet, celebrations took place in major cities throughout Iran including Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj and the capital Tehran. Ali Safavi of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement that expressed, “The jubilant reaction across Iran over the regime soccer team’s defeat tonight reflects first and foremost the degree to which the Iranian people loath and detest the ruling mullahs and want to see it overthrown. They knew that the regime was trying to exploit the presence of its team in the World Cup to overshadow the ruthless manner with which it has cracked down on the nationwide uprising, which has left 660 protesters, including at least 60 children, dead and 30,000 (arrested). At no time in its 43-year rule, has the regime been so isolated in the eyes of Iranian people who are determined as ever to topple it.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian players, who already reportedly faced threats to their families of imprisonment and torture if they repeated their show of solidarity with protesters by remaining silent during the playing of their national anthem, are believed by some to be facing similar threats of retribution for their failure to overcome the Americans.
Former CIA covert operations officer Mike Baker described the players as being in an “untenable position” to the New York Post and noted, “Given what we’ve seen from the Iranian regime … they’ve shown themselves to be brutal and there’s no reason to believe they’re going to suddenly become rational.”
As an example, Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekavi has reportedly been held under house arrest after returning to Iran from a competition abroad in October where she appeared without a hijab, believed to be a gesture supporting the protests. Baker suggested that a victory from the men’s soccer team would have allowed Iran to move past the anthem snub earlier.
“The regime would have used them for their own purposes. They would have spent all the focus on the victory, defeating ‘The Great Satan’ or whatever clever phrases they come up with,” he said.
Author and Iran expert Kenneth R. Timmerman didn’t believe a win would have made a difference as he argued “they’ve already committed that sin.”
“I would be afraid of arrest. Even if they had won,” he went on, “they would have been arrested, soundly beaten and warned, ‘Don’t ever do this again.'”
Meanwhile, Fatemeh Aman of the Washington-based think tank Middle East Institute believed that the unity of the team may have been their saving grace. “You can’t arrest the entire national team at the same time, you can’t do that,” she contended. Aman did acknowledge, “They are in a really, really hard position, a really bad position.”
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