USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter apologized on Monday for his team’s edit of the Iranian flag in World Cup social media posts … though he insisted he and his players had no say in the matter.
The U.S. Soccer Federation’s posts were up for several hours on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook on Saturday … showing Iran’s flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic in it.
U.S. soccer officials said the scrubbing was on purpose, telling CNN it was a planned 24-hour change to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” The normal flag had been restored by Sunday afternoon.
The move, however, was panned by Iran … and the country’s state media asked FIFA on Sunday to kick the U.S. out of World Cup action over it all.
“According to section 13 of #FIFA rules,” Tasnim News Agency tweeted, “any person who offends the dignity or integrity of a country, a person or group of people … shall be sanctioned with a suspension lasting at least ten matches or a specific period, or any other appropriate disciplinary measure.”
FIFA has yet to comment on the issue — though Berhalter was peppered with questions about it during a meeting with reporters just 24 hours before the U.S. is slated to play Iran in a must-win match on Tuesday. The loser is likely eliminated from the tourney.
Berhalter said “players and the staff knew nothing about what was being posted” … calling it “out of our control.” He did, though, say he was sorry.
“All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff,” he said, “but it’s not something that we are part of.”
The 49-year-old manager then said he and his team’s focus is strictly on Tuesday’s match.
“I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that, but the guys have worked really hard for the last four years, we have 72 hours between England and Iran, and we really are just focused on how to get past Iran and how we can go to this knockout stage of the tournament.”
“Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people — the whole country, the whole team, everyone. But our focus is on this match.”
Even before the flag fiasco, Tuesday’s game was sure to be tense … as U.S.-Iran relations are icy, at best. Now, with the intensity ratcheted up, the game is must-watch TV.