Thursday 18 December 2014

US and Iran can bond over football to build political bridges

Donny Mahoney

Published 25/06/2014 | 02:30

Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi put in a heroic performance to keep Argentina at bay until stoppage time in their World Cup clash on Saturday. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi put in a heroic performance to keep Argentina at bay until stoppage time in their World Cup clash on Saturday. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The leaders of the United States of America and Iran would have you think that the citizens of both countries have nothing in common, that they're two countries on radically opposed cultural trajectories. But they would be wrong.

Because as of last weekend, the residents of both countries will be bound together forever in the sorrow of loving football, and believing incredible things.

On Saturday Iran, led by their heroic goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi, were minutes away from a heroic draw against an Argentina team starring Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.

On Sunday night, the US recovered after conceding to Nani of all people, to put Portugal, the fourth best team in the world according to FIFA, on the brink.

And then in added time both countries had their dreams cruelly denied. Moments of genius from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had robbed the people of Iran and America of an impossible thing that felt on the verge of realisation.

There was news in the last few weeks that America and Iran are beginning to co-operate to help combat the rise of ISIS in Iraq.

I have a better idea for co-operation between the nations: a set of friendlies, one in New York, the other in Tehran, after both teams are eliminated from the World Cup. Or even a big group hug session.

Because their pain is the same, and from a shared suffering in sport, all kinds of bridges can be built.

Irish Independent

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