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Iran fans hug Americans, but divided over anti-regime acts


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Despite Iran and the United States not maintaining diplomatic relations, what was seen this Tuesday (29), in the World Cup match that ended with victory and classification for the Americans, was a friendly atmosphere between fans of both countries.

A few minutes were enough for dozens of Iranians to take pictures with a couple of Americans who had their faces painted in the colors of the US flag. They were in front of the Al Thumama stadium, in Doha, the country’s capital, shortly before the match. The scene was repeated throughout the arena. There was no hostility among the crowd.

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One of them was the American Lee Ibrahim, 44, characterized from head to toe. He didn’t believe that people were there thinking about politics. “We are all brothers and sisters and we are here to see a good football game,” he said.

His wife, Amanda Ibrahim, 41, had a similar feeling. “We’re just rooting for our teams, rooting for each other, enjoying the moment.”

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When the ball rolled, the sound of the stands filled the stadium. Anyone who had followed previous games knew that the volume of this game was much louder — a mix of horns, screams and drumming. Iran’s fans were the ones with the most gogó.

On the Iranian side, there was a division between those who saw football only as a pretext to discuss the country’s politics and those who said it was time to separate matters.

“Women’s issues are more important,” said Iranian Masood Nagvi, 38. He was referring to demonstrations in justice for Mahsa Amini, 22, a young Kurd killed while in custody by Tehran’s moral police. Authorities said she was not wearing the hijab, or Islamic veil, properly.

Mohammed Ghafoury, 29, sees the sport differently. “Politics should stay out of football. We are friends with the Americans,” he said, citing the specific context of the match.

The fact is that Washington and Tehran have not been friends since 1980, a year after the Islamic Revolution, when they broke off relations. The movement turned the country into a theocratic republic, based on the Koran, and changed women’s rights, among other points.

In this context, Iranian students invaded the US embassy in the capital of Iran and kidnapped 52 Americans, who would be released 444 days later. Then there was the rupture – and Iran began to call the US the “Great Satan”.

Since then, there has been the invasion of Iran by Iraq, with US financial, military and technological support. There were more than 500,000 deaths in the war.

And the tension finally intensified with Donald Trump, who put an end to years of negotiations for a nuclear deal, imposed new sanctions on the Middle Eastern country and, finally, killed the country’s top military commander, General Qassim Soleimani. .

Neither of the two fans, Nagvi and Ghafoury, could accept less than the victory on Tuesday, as in 1998, when Iran won 2-1 and eliminated the USA from the World Cup in France.

At the time, the Iranian Football Federation had announced that its players would not shake hands with the Americans during the match, a gesture that, according to Fifa’s determination, the team should do.

For this reason, the football organization made an exception, and the Americans were responsible for saluting the Iranians after the national anthem. The Persians then handed white flowers to their opponents and, finally, everyone posed together for a photo.

The entity prohibits political demonstrations by players on the field. In the crowd, flags with political sayings are not allowed.

This Tuesday, the greetings between the athletes were protocol. No gestures of goodwill, such as the roses, were seen.

According to the AFP agency, however, FIFA authorized “gestures of support” with messages that promote human rights, the portrait or name of Mahsa Amini and the slogan of the acts, “Women, Life and Freedom”.

Iranian fans have ignored the rules and waved flags in defense of women’s rights in arenas. At the match, some were seen asking for justice for the death of the young Kurd.

The Iranian L., 25, went to the game with the 1998 victory on her head. For this Tuesday’s match, she opted for a black sweatshirt with the face of American rapper Tupac, showing familiarity with the opponent’s culture.

He disagreed with those who said that politics should not mix with football. He stressed that the political weight of the game did not end only with the opponent, but also involved the protests that had been taking place for months in his country.

“In the end, it’s about Iran. So the protests and the game itself, against the United States, are equally important,” she said, on condition of anonymity out of fear of the Iranian regime.

L. was also referring to the demonstrations made by the death of Amini, which took place in September. Since that episode, massive protests have gripped the country and become some of the biggest in the Middle East in years. Iranian women tore their veils in the streets to demand justice.

Local authorities claim that the young woman died as a result of a heart problem, but the family disputes this. Together with activists, they claim that Amini was attacked by the security forces and, as a result, died.

According to the NGO Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI), at least 402 people died during the protests. According to the organization, 16,800 people were arrested, with some sentenced to death.

The Iranian regime recently accused Washington of inciting the protests, rescuing the bellicose history between the countries.

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