- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

About 30 rowdy fans crowded in front of two large plasma televisions at the 90 Minute Cafe in Adams Morgan yesterday to cheer for their favorite “Futbol” team, but it wasn’t the Washington Redskins or any other member of the National Football League.

Soccer was the game, and Mexico was the team, which defeated Iran 3-1 in the World Cup.

The soccer-themed cafe was almost filled to capacity.

Both nations with teams in the game are in the news almost daily: Iran for its nuclear issue and Mexico for its ties to illegal aliens in the United States.

But politics took a break yesterday, for 90 minutes at least.

Laden Moeenzini, 24, who is Iranian, brought five non-Iranian friends to help cheer on her team.

She expected to be in the minority. The District has nearly 44,955 Hispanics, compared with about 750 people of Iranian descent, census figures show.

“We figure there aren’t a lot of people supporting Iran,” Miss Moeenzini said. “The average American is going to feel closer to Mexico. But the great thing about soccer is that it’s minus politics. You leave them behind.”

Mbareck Brahim, 30, an Iranian fan, arrived at the cafe wearing an orange Netherlands soccer team T-shirt and white French soccer team shorts.

“I did not wear the Iranian team Jersey because I couldn’t find it,” he said. “So this is fine because it is not Mexico.”

Mr. Brahim, who immigrated to the United States from Iran more than eight years ago, said he hoped Iran’s presence in the World Cup will give the country a better image in the United States.

“I hope the whole world is going with Iran,” he said. “We have the whole world despising us. We want to show the world right now that we have something that is good going on: soccer.”

Yellow and purple cones were used as bullhorns. One fan waved a Mexican flag.

As they cheered for their teams, the fans took good-natured jabs at the other’s players.

“No pushing,” Rebecca Zepeda, 20, yelled at an Iranian player who left one of Mexico’s players flat on the ground. “That was dirty.”

“Dirty? It was not dirty. That is the game. They are using their heads,” Mr. Brahim argued.

When Iran scored its lone goal, the room erupted into deafening cheers.

Mr. Brahim jumped from his seat near the door, sprinted into the street and yelled, “Goal, Iran,” then dashed back inside.

Team Mexico’s goals were greeted with equally loud cheers and the obvious elation of cafe manager Jose Pachano, who was by no means an unbiased observer.

“They are going to take it,” Mr. Pachano said several times of the Mexican team as he stood behind the bar. “Mexico, goal.”

Although Mr. Brahim was optimistic until the end that Iran would take the game and ultimately the World Cup, Miss Zepeda’s father, Amado, 49, a Mexico fan, was less sure about his team’s future despite the victory.

“Everyone thinks Brazil is going to win. Mexico will not. I think it will be Brazil,” Mr. Zepeda said.

But several minutes after the game concluded, the chant “Mexico, go Mexico” still could be heard from the street.

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