(New York Post) Iran’s national soccer team faces retribution in the Islamic Republic after coming up short in Tuesday’s showdown against the United States, experts told The Post.
Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said the Iranian players are stuck in an “untenable position” after their much-hyped match against the United States, which defeated Iran 1-0 to advance to the knockout round of 16.
“Given what we’ve seen from the Iranian regime … they’ve shown themselves to be brutal and there’s no reason to believe they’re going to suddenly become rational,” Baker said.
In their opening match against England last week, Iran’s players declined to sing their national anthem in an apparent protest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten in police custody for failing to properly wear a hijab in September.
And although Iran’s players sang their national anthem Tuesday, a win against the US would have helped ease their prior transgression, Baker said.
After Iran’s soccer players failed to sing their national anthem before facing off with England in the World Cup last week, their families were reportedly threatened with imprisonment and torture if the team failed to “behave” in Tuesday’s match.AP
US forward Christian Pulisic scored the winning goal against Iran on Tuesday, forcing the Islamic Republic out of the World Cup.REUTERS
“The regime would have used them for their own purposes,” Baker told The Post. “They would have spent all the focus on the victory, defeating ‘The Great Satan’ or whatever clever phrases they come up with.”
On Monday, CNN reported that families of the Iranian team were threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players failed to “behave” before their match against the US. Iranian players were forced to meet with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps after demonstrating before the England game, the report added.
Protests have erupted across Iran since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old aspiring lawyer, was arrested for failing to properly wear a hijab and died in police custody in September.Getty Images
Iran’s match against the US kicked off with sportsmanlike handshakes despite reported threats to the players and unrest roiling their country back home.REUTERS
Elnaz Rekavi, an Iranian rock climber, is reportedly under house arrest in her home country for competing abroad in October without a mandatory hijab — which many perceived as a gesture of support for Amini. Rekabi, 33, was threatened with the seizure of her family’s property unless she made a “forced apology,” according to reports.
Now, the Iranian team could face fines or even arrest in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat once they arrive home — as retaliation for their disloyalty and their failure to beat the enemy, Baker said.
Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekavi is reportedly under house arrest for competing abroad without a mandatory hijab.INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF SPOR
“Neither is good if you’re an Iranian player upon returning home,” he added.
The Iranian players endured a “tremendous amount of pressure” prior to the game, including criticism from protesters in Iran who believe they have not been vocal enough against the regime, according to Baker, who now works as CEO at Portman Square Group, a global intelligence firm.
The Iran soccer team was in an “untenable position” going into the game against the US, experts told The Post.REUTERS
Iran has been rocked by furious anti-government protests since Amini’s death. As of Monday, 451 protesters have died during clashes with authorities, including 64 children, according to nonprofit group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Iran’s ruling clerics are singularly focused on ending the rampant unrest that has erupted in 157 cities across the country since mid-September.
The Iranian players could possibly defect to other nations, although that isn’t likely as leaving relatives behind would be especially difficult, Baker said.