November 28, (THEWILL) – In a tense World Cup pre-match news conference, Gregg Berhalter apologised for US Soccer’s posting of an altered Iranian flag on social media while maintaining that neither he nor the US players were aware of it.
Given the tension between the two nations elsewhere, it seemed inevitable that the USMNT versus Iran Group B match would have political undertones.
At his Monday media briefing, Berhalter attempted to deflect these inquiries with an early response, saying: “When I think about this match, I know a lot of other constituents have a lot of feelings towards it. For us, it’s a soccer game against a good team. It’s not much more than that. It’s a knockout game, both teams are desperate to go to the next round. That’s how we’re looking at this match.”
However, that did little to stop the line of inquiry, which was made worse by a Sunday tweet. In an effort to support the Iranian demonstrators, where there has been unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody after being arrested for refusing to wear the required hijab, in September, US Soccer uploaded an altered Iran flag without the Islamic Republic of Iran’s emblem.
Iran was outraged by that post, and state-affiliated media Tasnim called for the US to be kicked out of the World Cup. Berhalter responded with: “We had no idea about what US Soccer put out, the staff, the players had no idea. Our focus is on this match.”