Posted: 8/21/2017


          Back to Sunday 21 June 1998 and the Stade Gerland in Lyon, France. THE MOTHER OF ALL GAMES in Group F as USA faced off against Iran in their second fixtures of FIFA World Cup FRANCE '98. Both had lost their opening games, Iran 1-0 to Yugoslavia and USA 2-0 to Germany at Parc des Princes in Paris.

         Both coaches lived in California, Jalal Talebi in the Bay Area and Steve Sampson in Southern California. In fact both had coached the same junior college team in The Bay Area at different times.  I had watched Iran v Scotland in Cordoba, Argentina in 1978 but that team was no more after the Shah was ousted in 1979. After the revolution many Iranians, including footballers,  fled the country. At a press conference in Paris before the game in Lyon former players had accused the brutal regime of murdering the old team captain Habib Khabiri in 1984.  Iran had defeated Australia in Melbourne in a play-off to qualify, but Taledu was their 4th coach in 7 months.

        There was strict security as FIFA expected trouble and riot police were stationed nearby. I remember as we were frisked entering the stadium there were huge piles of big square placards on stakes saying IRAN- 3,000 YEARS OF CIVILISATION, none of which were allowed inside. 42,000 fans were inside the new stadium, which has now been replaced by a newer one recently.  USA was designated Team A and Iran Team B. with Iran supposed to walk towards their opponents to shake hands before kick-off.  Their Suprem Leader Khamenei in Teheran said that in no way would Iran do that.

        A compromise was worked out, The Iranians gave each of their opponents a bouquet of white roses, a symbol of peace, and they had a team photo mixed in together.  Hamid Estili scored after 40 minutes and Mehdi Mahdavikia after 84 before Brian McBride made in 2-1. It was Iran's first ever World Cup victory. Most of the Iranian fans were exiles but supported their team and we all chatted together on the subway to and from the city centre. USA lost to Yugoslavia in Nantes and Iran to Germany and both left the tournament early.

         A couple of weeks ago it was reported that two Iranian players had played against an Israeli team  Maccabi Tel Aviv  for their Greek club Panionis in a UEFA club competition, and had been BANNED FOR LIFE from representing their country.  Masoud  Shojaei 33, the captain of the national team  and Ehsan Hajisajfi 27.  Iran's deputy sports minister  Mohammad Reza Davarzani  said "Iran does not recognise the state of Israel and Iranian athletes are forbidden from competing against Israelis."   BEYOND THE PALE. Unacceptable, outside the agreed standards of decency. In 1791 Catherine the Great of Russia created the Pale of Settlement, where Jews had to live outside. In Ireland BEYOND THE PALE was outside Dublin where certain people had to live.

          FIFA has many countries than have tyrannical regimes, many in the Middle East, but all manage to obey the rules even if they have to play home games in neutral countries during conflicts. Iran was the first country to qualify for FIFA Russia 2018 and TEAM MELLI  have a good team with a mixture of Portuguese and Iranian coaches led by Carloz Queioz and American Dan Gaspar the goalkeeping coach.

         IRAN MUST BE BANNED FROM ALL FIFA COMPETITIONS including next year's FIFA World Cup for unacceptable behaviour BEYOND THE PALE. If they want to appeal this ruling they should sit in front of a jury of three ORTHODOX JEWS.