England vs. Iran: One threatens yellow, the other violence – sport

Harry Kane was still in his track jacket when the camera zoomed in on him during the England national anthem. The bandage was not to be seen. And yet it was no longer a secret which piece of fabric Kane had rolled over his upper arm shortly before the game – and which not. When the English lined up for their opening game against Iran, they were also on display: the officially licensed Fifa armband with the official campaign hashtag #NoDiscrimination.

No discrimination. A slogan that nobody can have anything against – but which should no longer mean anything to anyone who has followed the events of the past few days. It was only Kane’s announcement, like the captains of other European teams, that he would wear the colorful “One Love” bandage in Qatar as a sign against discrimination of any kind, which England’s FA association had reported to Fifa weeks ago. Then no reaction from the world association. And the day before kick-off, the threat of sporting sanctions if the official piece of Fifa fabric is not on the sleeve.

An explicit threat of punishment to prevent a sign against discrimination? Yes, exactly. And immediately afterwards, Fifa announced that they were giving the captains “the opportunity” to send a signal against, exactly, discrimination in the preliminary round. Actually, the hashtag #NoDiscrimination was only intended for the quarterfinals. But that doesn’t matter, because only a few letters are left anyway. The request itself is completely devalued.

Then the camera panned to Iran’s team. And now you could see that attitude and courage have not completely disappeared from football. The Iranian anthem was played – and the Iranian players were silent. All. There was no sign of respect for the anthem in the stands either: many fans shouted, others whistled. A woman with a headscarf had tears running down her cheeks – the film directors may have thought it was emotion due to football, at least they showed the scene. Unlike later posters with slogans like “Freedom for Iran” or “Women – Life – Freedom”.

Iran’s state TV switches to the stadium long shot when it’s clear that the players aren’t singing

Silence to the anthem after government circles in Iran had asked for them to sing along: It was probably a sign that many people in Iran had expected from their team. The players wear the coat of arms, but they keep their distance from the regime, which has been shooting down and bludgeoning the reform movement at home for months, currently more brutally than it has been in a long time. Iran’s state TV switched to the stadium long shot when it became clear that the players weren’t singing – but the images will still spread across the country via social media. And even if many Iranians have already finished with this team because they did not refuse an appointment with President Ebrahim Raisi shortly before their arrival (and even seemed in a good mood there): On Monday in al-Rayyan, it was the Iranians who after Days of discussion about a colorful bandage that put the standards back in order.

What would have threatened Harry Kane if he had flouted the Fifa order? A yellow card, maybe another kind of sporting (!) repression – Fifa hasn’t become concrete there, because the set of rules doesn’t say much about it either. And what threatens the players in Iran? What threatens their compatriots? Even. More than just sporting repression. So much for the symbols in this highly political game at this highly political World Cup, the blown and the pulled through. But a word about the involuntary ones: Immediately after the Iranian anthem, the Fifa director played Tiesto’s “The Business”. “Let’s get down, let’s get down to business.”

The game? Yes, the ball rolled, just as Fifa President Gianni Infantino wanted it to because “it’s what people really want”. But then the ball stopped rolling for a few minutes: The Iranian goalkeeper Beiranvand collided with a teammate while defending against a Harry Kane cross, lay on the lawn, bled from his nose, was dazed, got up at some point, staggered, left again fall. A bloody T-shirt, now also on the lawn – if you were still looking for a picture of the fact that things are really not going well for the Iranians, you now had one here too.

Then it went as expected. England led 3-0 at the break with goals from Bellingham (35′), Saka (43′) and Sterling (45+1′), in the second half Saka (62′), Rashford (71′) and Grealish ( 90+1.). And because the Iranian Taremi shortened once from the game (65th) and once with a penalty kick (90+13th), the game ended 6:2. Which doesn’t put Gareth Southgate’s side in the ranks of title favorites – but they’re in good spirits. The next game is against the USA, then maybe the ball will just roll.

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