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Iran World Cup Players: Threatened at Home, Consoled by US Team | World In :60 | GZERO Media

US-Iran World Cup sportsmanship amid political tensions

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

How did Iran's attention in the World Cup impact protests at home?

Well, I mean, it certainly didn't slow them down any. When you see the Iranian national team first refusing to sing the national anthem and then singing it as woodenly and non-passionately as humanly possible because they've been threatened, and threatened about their families at home if they aren't singing it, that's a hell of a message to send to the Iranian people. And the fact that this country does not reflect its regime, a team does not reflect its regime, it's just extraordinary. And also, I just have to say that all of the pictures and the videos we've seen of the Iranian team and the American team actually coming together, the Americans consoling the Iranians, who have been under such massive stress and crying, and I mean, you can't even imagine performing at that level on the global stage, given the level of additional political pressure and danger that they're actually under. My heart goes out to those guys, and of course to the Americans for doing such a great job representing our country.

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Iran fans hold Freedom For Iran and Women Life Freedom placards before the 2022 FIFA World Cup Group B match against England in Doha, Qatar.

Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd via Reuters Connect

Great Satan on the pitch, big troubles at home — Iran's World Cup dilemma

The US and Iran go to war Tuesday ... on a soccer pitch. The two sides meet in their last first-round game of the Qatar World Cup, and whoever wins will almost certainly advance to the knockout stage — a first for Iran.

But this time the long-running geopolitical tensions between the two bitter enemies have taken a back seat to the ongoing women-led protests against the theocratic regime in Iran, the biggest the country has seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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Iran's Ahmad Noorollahi, Sadegh Moharrami, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh line up during the national anthems before the World Cup match against England.

REUTERS/Marko Djurica

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Iran’s Kurds rise up, soccer squad goes silent

Even as widespread anti-government protests over democracy and women’s rights continue across Iran, things are getting particularly dicey in Kurdish-majority areas along the northwestern border with Iraq. Iran’s revolutionary guards have not only cracked down on the protests in the city of Mahabad, but they also reportedly sent missiles across the border into Kurdish areas of Iraq for good measure. Kurdish groups have struggled for independence from Iran for more than a century, and Mahabad is hugely symbolic — it was the capital of a short-lived independent Kurdish state in the 1940s. Meanwhile, the broader anti-government protests continue to get high-level sympathizers. Two prominent female actors who removed their headscarves publicly in solidarity were arrested over the weekend. Then, on Monday, Iranian footballers stunningly refused to sing Iran’s national anthem ahead of their opening World Cup match in Qatar as a show of support for the protests back home.

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