June 10, 2009

Oh, it’s on… USA vs. Iran in October

Under the Shadow of Politics
cross posted from Democracy Arsenal:
Reports out of Iran indicate that the U.S. and Iranian soccer federations have agreed to play two friendlies – one in Tehran in October and one in LA in November. Apparently, the head of the US soccer federation and his Iranian counterpart agreed to the games at a FIFA conference in the Bahamas. But one assumes that there is no way that they made the agreement without talking to their governments first.
The game in Tehran raises a number of interesting questions. Will American fans be able to travel to Tehran for the game? (Last year – in one of the dumbest effects of the Cuban embargo – American fans were not legally allowed to root for the US team in a world cup qualifier against Cuba.) Will the U.S. send a high-level government official to watch the game – hmm Hilary perhaps? Will the Iranian president – whomever that may be – attend with them? It will be very interesting to watch how Iran approaches all the atmospherics around the game. Is it a love fest – with the players taking on the role of diplomats and lots of expressions of mutual friendship. Or is it more chilly and nationalistic – with symbolic expressions of Iranian power? Most interestingly is how the Iranian fans – likely 100,000 of them – will react, especially during the U.S. national anthem… symbolism galore!

The follow on game in Los Angeles  will also have a number of interesting subplots. Iran’s coach – presuming he still has the job in November since it is looking less likely Iran will qualify for the World Cup after the 0-0 draw in the Axis of Evil bowl with North Korea – Afshin Ghotbi is an Iranian-American and went to UCLA, along with many of the American players. There is a large Iranian population in LA and their reaction will also be interesting to watch – will there be protests? who will Iranian-Americans root for? Will the U.S. government invite an Iranian official to attend?
Should be fascinating.
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