A representative of Iran’s soccer federation on Sunday called for the United States to be expelled from soccer’s World Cup over social media posts that the federation claimed had “disrespected” Iran’s flag.
The United States Soccer Federation drew Iran’s ire by including a doctored Iran flag in two posts on its official social media accounts on Saturday. A spokesman for U.S. Soccer said the decision to use an Iranian flag stripped of the country’s official emblem and two lines of Islamic script in posts on Twitter and Instagram was intentional, and meant to show support for the women of Iran — a nod to protests that have roiled Iran at home and followed its team to the World Cup in Qatar.
Iran condemned the decision to use an incorrect flag, which it said violated the statutes of FIFA, world soccer’s global governing body.
“Respecting a nation’s flag is an accepted international practice that all other nations must emulate,” Safia Allah Faghanpour, a legal adviser to Iran’s soccer federation, said in comments reported by a semiofficial state news agency in Iran. “The action conducted in relation to the Iranian flag is unethical and against international law.”
The adviser’s comments were reported by Tasnim News, whose own social media profile includes an image of an American flag in flames.
The United States and Iran are set to meet in a crucial game on Tuesday that was already fraught with political overtones and high stakes: The loser, if there is one, most likely will be eliminated from the tournament.
Iran cited a specific FIFA regulation that it said called for penalties for anyone “who offends the dignity or integrity of a country, a person or group of people through contemptuous, discriminatory or derogatory words or actions (by any means whatsoever).”
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the dispute. But Iran’s presence in the tournament has already made headlines: Fans arriving at matches with Iran’s prerevolutionary flag have been told it is not allowed inside stadiums, and Iran’s players have won praise — and criticism — for refusing to sing their national anthem at their opening game, and then appearing to grudgingly go along the second time they took the field.
The U.S. Soccer spokesman, who requested anonymity to discuss internal discussions, said the American federation had not been contacted by FIFA about the social media posts. But it said it had deleted the two posts after a series of internal discussions on Sunday and would use Iran’s official flag moving forward.