US soccer coach: Staff, players ‘had no idea’ Iranian flag would be altered in post

Gregg Berhalter, the head coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, said that the players and coaching staff “had no idea” that the Iranian flag would be altered in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s (USSF) social media post over the weekend.

During a news conference on Monday, Berhalter, who is in his fourth year as head coach of the American team, said his players and staff are focused on their final group-stage match against Iran, adding that the team had nothing to do with the social media post. 

In a now-deleted tweet, the USSF’s official Twitter account posted a graphic that included an altered Iranian national flag without the Islamic republic emblem, which represents the Islamic saying “There is no god but God.”

Berhalter’s remarks come as Iranian officials and state media have called for the U.S. to be banned from competing in the 2022 World Cup due to the social media post, with Iran’s soccer federation legal adviser Safia Allah Faghanpour saying that the U.S. not using the Islamic logo on Iran’s national flag is “unethical.” 

The USSF said in a statement to CNN on Sunday that the initial purpose of the post was to show support for ​​”the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” adding that there was a 24-hour window in which the altered Iranian flag logo appeared on the post before it used the proper Iranian flag. 

“We had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out. The staff, the players, we had no idea,” Berhalter said during Monday’s press conference.

“Our focus is on this match,” Berhalter added. “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. But it’s not something that we were a part of.” 

Iran’s government has cracked down on waves of protests in recent months sparked by the death of 22-year-old Iranian national Mahsa Amini. Protesters are calling for an end to violence and discrimination against women in the country and in some cases for overthrowing the ruling government.

Amini died in police custody last month after being arrested by authorities for improperly wearing her hijab, which violated Iran’s strict rules on female dress codes. 

Amini’s death has also garnered international attention, with countries including the U.S. condemning Iran for its treatment of women and the deadly tactics it has used to disperse demonstrators.

The U.S. men’s national soccer team is set to play Iran in its third Group B match on Tuesday, needing a win to advance to the knockout stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Tags 2022 World Cup Iran Qatar United States United States men's national soccer United States Soccer Federation
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