The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio is right around the corner, and Iran is preparing for it in full force after clinching a place in the finals, despite a small setback caused by shrinking socks in the kit supplied to the Iranian team by a German company – a crisis deemed newsworthy by many English-language outlets.
In another recent football-related debacle, the Iranian Jam-e Jam newspaper was caught out doctoring photos of Atletico Madrid players during their Champions League semifinal against Chelsea to edit the word ‘Azerbaijan’ and the neighboring country’s logo out of their jerseys.
But ultimately, for Iran, football is a rather serious matter. With the Brazil championship nearly upon us, the English-language media has been remembering past world cups in which Iran participated and searching for signs that in some ways, things have changed.
Slate ran a particularly long preview piece last month on Iran’s footballing past and future, contrasting the 1998 championship in France with this year’s finals to follow the transformations that have occurred in Iranian-American relations.
To many, Iran’s team, Team Melli, is best remembered for the scandal it caused in the Germany tournament in 2006, when ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ranted about Auschwitz being a “fairy tale” and calling for Israel’s destruction yet again.
In Iran, the memory of the 1998 championship – in which the “national team” beat the “Great Satan” of America – endures far more strongly. And yet, notes Slate’s Harrison Stark, its star footballers and trainers comprise a “remarkably cosmopolitan” bunch, many of them European-born – and even two Americans.
And if we take Stark’s word for it, with greater diversity comes better sportsmanship, as they’re also a better team! It seems that the English-language press is excited to see Iran’s improved lineup on the pitch, with The Guardian even citing the team’s kit – and sock debacle – as a reason to watch the World Cup.
What can we say? We’re excited too!