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sportsmanship

Joy

US players comforting Iranian opponents after their World Cup match is humanity at its best

The politically charged match ended with several beautiful displays of genuine human connection.

US and Iranian players embrace after World Cup match-up.

The lead-up to the 2022 World Cup match between the U.S. and Iran was filled with anticipation, as the teams battled for a spot in the final 16 and long-running tensions between the two nations on the political stage rose to the surface.

The Iranian team had some internal tensions of its own to deal with as players navigated the spotlight amid human rights protests in their home country and rigid expectations of their government. According to CNN, after refusing to sing the national anthem before its match against England on November 21, the Iranian team was reportedly called into a meeting with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and told that their families would face “violence and torture” if they did not sing the anthem or engaged in any other form of protest.

Hence, before the match against the U.S., the players were shown somberly singing the anthem. Then they got down to the business they were there for—trying to win (or at least tie) a soccer match to advance to the World Cup round of 16.

It was an exciting game, with the U.S. ultimately winning 1-0. But in the end, all of the intense competition and political tensions were superseded by some truly heartwarming acts of good sportsmanship and human kindness.

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Sportsmanship is as old an idea as athletic competition itself. After all, the first Olympic games were designed to foster peace and cooperation, a notion that at least still exists in theory today.

However, all too often, today's world of competitive sports seems to focus on massive contracts, endorsement deals and players siding with China over freedom and democracy to protect their lucrative self-interest. Players are brands, teams are profit generators and fans are stuck somewhere in between.

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