United States manager Gregg Berhalter said that his players and staff were not involved in social media posts that the U.S. Soccer Federation briefly displayed on Sunday that removed the central image of Iran’s flag.
Berhalter went on to apologize on behalf of the federation, insisting that the USMNT is putting full focus on its upcoming crucial contest against Iran on Tuesday.
The social media posts included red, white and green stripes of Iran’s flag without its central Islamic Republic emblem in support of protests taking place in the country.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
“The players and the staff knew nothing about what was being posted,” Berhalter said. “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.
“… 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,” Berhalter said. “We have 72 hours between England and Iran, and we really are just focused on how to get past Iran and [how] we can go to this knockout stage of the tournament.”
Iranian state media immediately called for Team USA to be thrown out of the 2022 World Cup for racism.
The USFA, in a comment to CNN, said it changed the flag for 24 hours to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” but added that it always intended on changing it back.
“Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people … the whole country, the whole team, everyone, but our focus is on this match,” Berhalter said.
The USMNT and Iran are set to take on a decisive Group B match at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday to further determine which team will head into the knockout stage.