The U.S. plays Iran in a pivotal World Cup match Tuesday, but Iranian reporters at the pre-game press conference didn’t seem to be interested in “The Beautiful Game.” Instead, their goal was to try to embarrass American team manager Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams with questions about race and geopolitics. Neither of them took the bait and instead left the journalists with egg on their face.
The first reporter chastised Adams for daring to mispronounce Iran:
You say you support the Iranian people, but you’re pronouncing our country’s name wrong. Our country is named ee-ron, not eye-ran. Please, once and for all—let’s get this clear.
[Pronunciations are my interpretation of what the reporter was saying.]
Let’s stop right there. How arrogant is that? American athletes are used to taking tough questions from journalists at press conferences—usually about sports—but rarely do you see them spoken to in such an insulting manner. This interrogation was just getting started, though, as the reporter then accused the U.S. of being racist. It must be pretty weird to get lectured to about discrimination from someone whose country executes gay people:
Second of all, are you ok to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against black people in its own borders, and, uh, we saw the Black Lives Matter movement, over the past few years, are you ok to be representing the U.S., meanwhile there’s so much discrimination happening against black people in America?
The reporter’s intentions were so transparent that it was almost laughable—he was obviously trying to embarrass the United States in front of a worldwide audience. What he didn’t expect, one imagines, is the classy and spot-on response from Adams, who is the first black U.S. captain at the World Cup:
“My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country. That being said, there’s discrimination everywhere you go. One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilating to different cultures, is that in the U.S. we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”
Tyler Adams mispronounced Iran and was called out by an Iranian journalist – who followed up with a question on discrimination in the United States.
His response: An all time classy answer- Captain & Leader. #USMNT 👏 pic.twitter.com/pELQmBttPl
— Stu Holden (@stuholden) November 28, 2022
Although hostility between Iran and the United States is nothing new, the Iranians are especially peeved this week because of a U.S. national team tweet that depicted an Iranian flag with the emblem of the Islamic Republic missing. This was to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” according to a spokesperson for the team. Enraged Iranian state media quickly called for the U.S. to be booted from the tournament:
By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of #Iran on its official account, the #US football team breached the @FIFAcom charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty.
Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022 pic.twitter.com/c8I4i4z3Tv
— Tasnim News Agency (@Tasnimnews_EN) November 27, 2022
The journalists agitators also tried to get coach Gregg Berhalter into a debate, asking him about America’s immigration policies and U.S. naval activity. Berhalter hit back, pointing out that Americans aren’t even welcome in Iran:
You are welcome in our country, but we are not [in yours]. Nineteen [actually 20] million people watched the last game back home, they usually get behind us at big international tourneys and we hope that continues…
I don’t know enough about politics, I’m a soccer coach.
Adding to the Cup’s controversies was the brave Iranian players’ refusal to sing the republic’s national anthem last week before their opener against England. They will surely be punished for that transgression.
The United States needs to beat Iran to advance in the tournament; otherwise, their journey is over. They won this encounter, however, as both coach and captain took the high road and refused to play the fool for these gotcha “journalists.” Note to progressives and race-baiters here at home—this is what happens when you claim America is the Worst Country on Earth. Other countries, which really are contenders for that title, take you at your word.
I’m not that big a fan of soccer, but I hope we beat the pants off them Tuesday.
Watch more of the interview here:
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