Iran wants the U.S. booted from the World Cup after the U.S. Soccer Federation removed the Islamic Republic’s emblem from the Iranian flag on now-deleted social media posts.
The emblem was scrubbed from U.S. Soccer‘s posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter over the weekend that promoted Tuesday’s high-stakes match between Iran and the U.S., according to ESPN.
U.S. Soccer said Sunday that the emblem was removed to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” according to CNN. The post was deleted after 24 hours.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter apologized Monday for the move, the network reported.
But Iran state-affiliated media outlet Tasnim called for the American team’s ouster from the tournament over the perceived slight.
“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,” Tasnim said on its English-language Twitter account on Sunday. “Team #USA should be kicked out of the #WorldCup2022.”
A legal adviser for the Iran Football Federation said that the emblem’s removal will be taken up with FIFA’s morality committee. The emblem itself stands for the Islamic saying “There is no god but God.”
“They must be held responsible,” Safia Allah Faghanpour said, according to ESPN. “Obviously they want to affect Iran‘s performance against the U.S. by doing this.”
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that they didn’t coordinate with U.S. Soccer about the gesture.
“We look forward to a peaceful and competitive match on the field,” the spokesperson told the network. “The United States continues to find ways to support the Iranian people in the face of state-sponsored violence against women and a brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters.”
Widespread protests have challenged Iran‘s theocratic regime over recent months. The unrest started after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by the country’s morality police in September for not adhering to its strict dress code for women. She later died in police custody.
The U.S. needs to defeat Iran in Tuesday’s game in order to keep its tournament hopes alive. Iran is currently in line to advance to the cup’s knockout rounds after defeating Wales 2-0 on Friday.