The US Men’s Soccer Team Beat Iran On Tuesday, But Iranian Players Deserve All The Credit

Supporting teams that challenge imperialism used to be straightforward for me. However, as the composition of these teams becomes more diverse, the complexity increases. For example, Kylian Mbappé, a star player born in Paris, has a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother. Alphonso Davies from Canada was born in a refugee camp in Ghana. Additionally, the US team has 12 Black players out of the total 26, which is more than the combined number in the 1994, 1998, and 2002 teams (source).

One of the US players, Sergiño Dest, was born in the Netherlands to a white Dutch mother and an American father with Surinamese ancestry. In the 38th minute of the game, Dest made a header pass to Christian Pulisic, a white American player widely recognized as the best in the country. Pulisic then scored, giving the US team a 1-0 lead.

The surrounding crowd immediately started chanting “U-S-A!” and celebrating the goal. As a Filipino immigrant, I enthusiastically joined in, filled with pride for the country I now consider my home.

When the match between Iran and the US began, I noticed that I was one of only three people of color in a crowded bar of nearly a hundred attendees. However, in the second half of the game, two more people of color, Bassel Heiba Elfeky and Billy Strickland, joined and took seats next to me. Bassel, an NYU graduate student from Egypt who was visiting Boston for a physics conference, turned out to be supporting Iran. Initially, he quietly expressed his disappointment, but gradually became more vocal as the game grew more intense and the US desperately clung to their lead. When a penalty was called against the US and the rest of the bar groaned, Bassel pumped his fist in support of Iran. While the bar applauded a corner kick for the US, Bassel shook his head.

Bassel vocalized his hesitance in supporting the US, highlighting the vast wealth disparity and pay inequality between the more successful US women’s team and the men’s team. He described Iran as a complete underdog, which made supporting them all the more compelling.

Billy Strickland, who grew up in LA and has Japanese heritage, mentioned that he would support Japan’s team over the US if the two teams faced each other. Meanwhile, Bassel confessed that he always roots against the US men’s soccer team, finding their style of play boring.

In the closing minutes of the game, when it seemed like Iran might score and tie the game, the US managed to clear the ball. Bassel uttered, “goddamnit.” When the final whistle blew, confirming the US’s victory, he let out a sigh, shrugged, and said, “It was a good game.” Both teams displayed determination, helped each other up after falls, and showcased the camaraderie that suggests sports transcend politics. US player Tim Weah even referred to Iran’s players as “an inspiration” for their pride and love for their country and people in an Instagram post.

Despite the disappointment, Bassel, akin to any fan who has witnessed the rarity of justice prevailing in sports, had to accept the outcome. While others in the bar celebrated with whiskey shots, he and Billy put on their jackets and backpacks and left. Soon, Iran’s players would also head back home, uncertain of what awaits them.

What do you think?

Written by Western Reader

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