World Cup History: The most politically charged football match ever

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  • World Cup History: The most politically charged football match ever

World Cup History: The most politically charged football match ever

Relations between the United States of America and Iran have never been very good. Over the years, tensions between the two countries grew which reached fever pitch in 1998. It took just one event which helped do more for improving the relations between the two countries than any political summit could have achieved. It was a football match between the two countries at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France which melted the ice.


The build-up to this match was very tense and political wrangling and jostling could be seen on both sides. The referee who officiated the match said there was a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the entire proceedings of the game and as the two sides walked out, no one knew what to expect. Urs Meier, the referee for the match claimed that his best moment of his career came when the two teams shook their hands before the match and all posed together for pictures. It was a historic football match that was beamed around the world to millions of people and they all witnessed the brotherhood and peace that can be achieved from the game of football.


This football match was so important that a documentary was even made about it. In that documentary, fans from both countries were shown greeting each other on the streets of Lyon, celebrating the match that was about to start. There were no feelings of animosity amongst the fans and they could be seen dancing and singing together, representing their own nations. This was the first time these two countries had ever played a football match against each other. The match was played so well between the US and Iran that FIFA gave both countries a fair play award for good conduct and sportsman spirit on the field. Directly following on from the match, the Iranian national team was invited to play three games on U.S. soil - a first for any Iranian football squad. The matches that were played in the U.S. helped to further build up the friendly and amicable footballing tradition that had started in 1998.


Many other articles have been written about this historic game and it led to easing of political tensions between the two nations. An interesting phenomenon took place when Iran qualified for the World Cup that year by beating Australia. The streets were full of celebrating people who were singing and dancing in Iran. The Revolutionary Guards didn't do anything because they were very happy about the fact that their team had qualified. The same scenes were repeated when the country beat the U.S. in France 1998. The win was their first ever in World Cup finals and it was almost equal to them winning the mega-event. Many security concerns were raised before the match and they were effectively dealt with before the game started. Problems were identified such as people entering the stadium with political banners that the camera crews were told to avoid. This shows that football can be a lot more than just a game; it can be something that brings people and nations together to forget their differences and celebrate the fact that they are all the same coming to watch a great game being played by their countries' teams.


Other politically motivated aspects of football have come to light in recent years. The following example also involves Iran. Following the political protests after the recent controversial presidential elections in the country, many people started to wear green bands to signify their support for the opposition. It went so far that even footballers were seen wearing the green armbands when playing matches in France 1998. This brought angry remarks from the government, leading to rumours that players wearing these armbands had been banned from playing matches for Iran. Realising the consequences, the government denied the rumour and clarified that no player was banned. This also shows that football can sometimes be used as a vehicle to further a political ideology or support a certain politician.


What America and Iran were able to achieve that day in Lyon, France has not been repeated since 1998. The footballing teams of other countries should come together and play matches and try to reduce political tension. Prime candidates could be North and South Korea; both who have teams playing in this year's World Cup. Political differences can be eradicated and the world can find peace through the extremely popular game that is football.



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