Why Iran gave the US team flowers at the 1998 World Cup

The last match between Iran and the United States began with an improbable gesture: bouquets of white flowers, despite acrimonious barbs and heated geopolitics.

The flowers, according to Iran’s coach, were meant as a symbol of peace prior to the 1998 match in France.

To watch Iran vs USA 0-1 − All Gоals & Extеndеd Hіghlіghts | FiFa World Cup 2022 HD

Twenty years later, prior to the Iran-United States match in Qatar, political tensions were once again at an all-time high.

However, no friendly gestures were made during the most recent meeting.

The previous match, which was played in Lyon, took place 20 years after diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed as a result of the 1979 storming of the US embassy in Tehran and subsequent 444-day hostage crisis.

Just one month prior to kickoff, the US State Department designated Iran as the world’s “most active” state sponsor of terrorism, while a number of high-ranking Iranian officials maintained a steady stream of anti-American rhetoric.

Despite the tensions evident in the halls of the United Nations and in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s players – led by California-based manager Jalal Talebi – determined that the only competition between the two would be on the field.

ESPN’s oral history of the match quotes Mr. Talebi as saying, “We decided to do something special.”

“Let’s go inside and give them beautiful flowers to signify that we are here to promote peace. We are not here for any sort of conflict.”

The United States team gave their opponents US Soccer Federation (USSF) pennants in return. In advance of the high-stakes match, the two teams posed for a group photograph, with many of the players smiling.

Cobi Jones, a midfielder for the US national team at the time, stated in an ESPN report, “I thought that was fantastic.”

“It’s an indication that sport has surpassed politics and everything else. This was crucial, and it was great to have a mixed-race photo.”

The days leading up to Tuesday’s World Cup rematch between the two teams were again marked by tensions, as widespread anti-government protests erupted in Iran and the USSF removed the Islamic Republican emblem from the flag it displayed online.

Later, the photos were deleted, and US manager Gregg Berhalter issued an apology, stating that “sometimes things are out of our control” and that he and his team were solely focused on football.

The US team entered the match hoping to avoid a repeat of the 1998 match, which Iran won 2-1, despite the fact that both teams were eliminated from the tournament following the match.

Alexi Lalas, a Fox Sports commentator and member of the 1998 team, told the Associated Press that the current US team would be wise not to ignore the geopolitical context of the match.

“Understanding the significance of this game, not only from a soccer perspective but also from a cultural one, is crucial for the United States,” he said, addressing what would motivate the US on the field.

Christian Pulisic scored in the 38th minute to give the United States a 1-0 victory against Iran in Qatar.

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