Iran threatens its players' families ahead of Tuesday World Cup match
An Iran team supporter cries as she holds a shirt that reads 'Mahsa Amini' prior to the start of the World Cup group B soccer match between Wales and Iran, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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CNN’s Sam Kiley reports Iran has threatened families of its own Iranian World Cup team with “violence and torture” if the players don’t “behave” in the highly anticipated match vs. the United States men’s national team on Tuesday.

A source told Kiley that Iran has a “large number” of security eyeing how the players behave while in Qatar. Additionally, the source said Iran coach Carlos Queiroz met with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officers following these threats, but  the meeting’s outcome remains unclear.

Prior to Iran’s first World Cup match vs. England last week, the team did not sing along with the national anthem while it was played.

Iranian team didn’t sing the national anthem ahead of their Group B opener against England (Image: Phil Harris / Daily Mirror)

With heightened tensions in the build-up to the game, on Monday, Iran state media called for the US to be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup after US Soccer changed Iran’s flag on its social media accounts over the weekend to show support for the protestors in Iran.

Yesterday, ahead of Tuesday’s match, an Iranian media outlet called for the U.S. to be expelled from the World Cup after the USMNT’s Twitter account posted a scrubbed version of Iran’s flag on the social media site.

According to Kiley’s source, Iran first offered “presents and cars” to its players before the team’s game vs. England, but then resorted to threats following that game. Before Iran’s second World Cup match vs. Wales on Friday, players appeared to sing along with their national anthem.

Kiley’s source also said that Iran sent actors to Qatar to show “a false sense of support and favor among fans,” and there are expected to be even more actors in attendance for Iran’s next match vs. the US team.

World Cup athletes have spoken loudly — even if silent

Germany’s starting 11 all posed with their right hands in front of their mouths, and within minutes, the image was circulating widely on social media.

The team’s social media feed confirmed that the gesture was designed as a protest to FIFA’s decision to ban the “OneLove” armband that many European captains had been hoping to wear in Qatar.

Qatar has been criticized over their treatment towards women and people within the LGBTQ+ community and FIFA’s complicity to ban the “One Love” arm ban.

In spite of their decision, last week, BBC sports commentator Alex Scott wore the banned arm ban in subtle demonstration and defiant courage in sharp repudiation.

Alex Scott sports the #OneLove armband after England’s decision to abandon the gesture over FIFA sanctions. #FIFAWorldCup | #Qatar2022

— SPORTbible (@sportbible) November 21, 2022

Despite the backdrop, the game itself is one of monumental implications for both sides. In order for the US to advance, they must outscore their opponent, however, for Iran, they must simply tie to advance.

Judgment Day for US Soccer.

Amid all #USA-Iran storylines, this is a game and one the US should win and really, really needs.

They’ve failed in this moment time and again. Now a chance to flip the script ahead of hosting in ‘26.#USAvIRN #WorldCup

— Chris Sadeghi (@chrissadeghi) November 29, 2022

So far, the USMNT has drawn both its games – 1-1 against Wales after letting a lead slip late on, and 0-0 against an England team full of superstars. In a high stakes game befitting a world stage, countries will watch with more than rooting interest, but a unified stance either in support of or against human rights.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...