Tables turn: Iran reporters grill USA coach, captain on anti-black racism in America

One reporter called out a member of the American team for mispronouncing Iran’s name.

Iranian journalists grilled USA coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams on Monday with hard-hitting questions on human rights in the United States.

The reporters appeared to be reciprocating the Western media’s treatment of Iran’s team and manager, who have been persistently pressed on political matters during the World Cup.

‘Eye-ran’

Before being asking about the systemic racism in the US, an Iranian Press TV journalist corrected Adams’ pronunciation of Iran, which he pronounced as “eye-ran” – like many Americans.

“First of all, you say you support the Iranian people but you are pronouncing our country’s name wrong. Our country is named Iran, not Iran. Please, once and for all, let’s get this clear,” the journalist said, which was followed by an apology by Adams.

Then in another question, the journalist asked the Team USA official if he is “okay to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against black people in its own borders.”

Responding, Adams pointed ​​to his upbringing as an African-American growing up in a white family.

“In the US, we’re continuing to make progress every single day…through education, I think it’s super important. Like you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country. It’s a process. As long as you see progress, that’s the most important thing,” Adams said.

US foreign policy

Hitting the Team USA officials with more questions on Washington’s policies, one reporter asked Berhalter about the presence of the US naval fleet near Iran. 

“Sport is something that should bring nations closer together and you are a sportsperson. Why is it that you should not ask your government to take away its military fleet from the Persian Gulf?” a journalist asked.

Towards the end of the presser, the coach was also grilled by a journalist over the US’ treatment of Iranians, where Americans could enter Tehran as people of Iran face obstacles.

“I don’t know enough about politics – I’m a soccer coach – I’m not well versed on international politics so I can’t comment on that,” said Berhalter, who was part of the US squad that lost against Iran during their previous game in 1998.

Big build up

The presser came just a day after a long-awaited match between rivals US and Iran, which will be their first World Cup faceoff since 1998.

The climate of the match has already been intense, after the United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) deleted the word “Allah” from Iran’s flag on social media posts. 

After being questioned over the move, coach Berhalter apologised; noting that it had nothing to do with him or the team’s players.

“Sometimes things are out of our control. We believe that it’s going to be a match [in which] the result will depend on who puts more effort in, who executes better on the field, and we’re not focused on those outside things. And all we can do on our behalf is apologise on behalf of the players and the staff,” Berhalter said.

Speaking to CNN amid the uproar caused by the post, the USMNT defended its move by saying it aimed to convey its “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights”. 

The Iranian Football Federation also complained to FIFA about the removal of the word “Allah” from its flag on social media posts by its American counterpart. The account deleted the post and later posted the Iranian flag without editing it.

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