U.S. Men’s National Team Grilled On Racism In America By Iranian Journalists At World Cup Press Conference
In the wake of ongoing protests in Iran, the U.S. Men’s National Team was questioned about Iranian political affairs during a World Cup press conference.
Iranian journalists targeted their political questions at coach Greg Berhalter and team captain Tyler Adams during Monday’s conference in Qatar ahead of the Iran-U.S. match. The USMNT members maintained throughout the questions that they were focusing on soccer, rather than politics.
“We support Iran’s people and Iran’s team,” Adams told the crowd. “But that being said, we’re laser-focused on this match, and they are as well. We know how important this is, our progress of our team, and what we want to do to prove to our country how hard we’ve been working, and we know they want to do exactly the same.”
This came a day after the official U.S. Soccer Twitter account posted the flag of Iran without the symbol of the Islamic Republic. The organization claimed the editing choice was to show “support for the women in Iran.” The account since removed the post and has used the original Iranian flag in subsequent images.
Berhalter was asked about the Tweet during Tuesday’s conference, to which he responded that the “players and staff knew nothing” about the post.
“Sometimes things are out of our control,” the coach said. “We believe that it’s going to be a match [where] the result will depend on who puts more effort in, who executes better on the field, and we’re not focused on those outside things. And all we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff.”
One journalist accused Adams of pronouncing the country’s name wrong, then asked if he was okay representing a country that “has so much discrimination against black people in its own borders.” Adams apologized for the mispronunciation and responded to the question calmly.
“There’s discrimination everywhere you go,” he said. “One thing that I’ve learned especially from living abroad in the last years…is that in the U.S. we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”
He continued to say “education is super important,” noting that the journalist had educated him about the mispronunciation.
Other members of the media tried to turn the conference back to soccer, but Iranian reporters continued with their politically charged questions. One journalist asked Berhalter about U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran, and another question touched on U.S. navy tactics.
“I don’t know enough about politics,” Berhalter replied. “I’m a soccer coach. And I’m not well-versed on international politics, so I can’t comment on that.”
Berhalter shifted focus back to the World Cup to talk about the U.S. draw game against England on Friday.
“I can’t speak for every American, but what I would say is from my understanding, there were 19 million people who watched the last game,” he said. “So it seems like there’s some great support back home…and I can imagine there’s going to be massive support in tomorrow’s game.”
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