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Why is USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter apologizing to Iran for … anything?

2022 World Cup
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USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter apologized Monday for US Soccer Federation social media posts that removed the central image of Iran’s flag to show solidarity with millions of Iranians engaged in public protests over the treatment of women.

He now needs to apologize for apparently not knowing that there is a world outside of soccer.

“The players and the staff knew nothing about what was being posted,” Berhalter told reporters at a Monday news conference. “Sometimes things are out of our control. We believe that it’s going to be a match that the result will depend on who puts more effort in, who executes better on the field. And we’re not focused on those outside things. All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff, but it’s not something that we are part of.

“We had no idea about what US Soccer put out. The staff, the players had no idea. And for us, our focus is on this match. I don’t want to sound aloof or not caring by saying that, but the guys that 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 nothing about posts on social media have had anything to do with taking the team’s focus on how to get past Iran on Tuesday.

The presser aside, the controversy – which we need to applaud, because we’re talking about the treatment of women in Iran, where 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained in September by the country’s morality police, was brutally murdered, sparking mass protests – isn’t about soccer in any way, shape or form.

Even the press conference, which was, yes, odd – a reporter from Iran state TV asked USMNT player Tyler Adams about discrimination against Blacks in America; Berhalter was later asked about the US military’s presence in the Persian Gulf – was just a momentary distraction.

That this is all happening against a backdrop that has this World Cup being contested as part of a sportswashing effort by host nation Qatar, amid years of allegations about bribery and thousands of deaths of workers who built the stadiums in which the games are being played, might make you think that the World Cup itself is just a momentary distraction.

The US isn’t going to win this tournament; we knew that going in.

We could do without guys like Gregg Berhalter taking another sliver from whatever we have left of our moral authority on the way to our inevitable exit.

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].