Soccer is more than a sport for the USA and Iran

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – People gathered at Kick Back Jack’s restaurant Tuesday to watch Team USA take on Iran in the World Cup.

Iran and the U.S. have been facing off on a world stage for many years and more recently in relation to Iran’s nationwide protests, the expanding nuclear program and international attacks.

For retired Marine, Randy Krank, there may have been some added significance. He had a friend who was one of the hostages held in Iran back in 1979.

“Every team up there plays for their country and their people and they play for their nation. They are not just playing for a flag. They are playing for the spirit of their nation,” said Krank.

East Carolina University Assistant Professor of Political Science and Security Studies, Dr. Hanna Kassab, says in order for the regime to survive especially an authoritative regime, they need a bad to point to.

“The United States is that bad guy. At the same time, the United States has labeled Iran a sponsor of terror. Which is true and part of the axis of evil,” said Dr. Kassab.

Drone strikes, targeted killings and sabotages have been affecting the Middle East for years amid a withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2015. More recently the women’s rights protests and even threatening the team representing them.

“The regime has threatened to torture the families of these soccer players for not singing the national anthem – not showing some sort of patriotism,” said Kassab.

While the love of the country may be why some here in the U.S. are watching, it’s about the game.

Krank got into the sport of soccer when his daughters started playing.

“I, actually, had to get a soccer book because I didn’t know what offside was. I was the parent that kept yelling at the ref every time they called offsides,” said Krank.

So, while the two teams met on the field, what has been happening between the two countries off the field was also on their minds.

“I think [soccer] touches the whole world,” said Krank.

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