Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said on Monday he hoped the next World Cup would focus less on politics and more on football, stressing there were better ways to use sport as a force for good.
Queiroz’s team has been dragged down by the political crisis in his country, pressured by protesters to get Iran’s footballers to stand on their side publicly and condemn the deadly state crackdown.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Group B match against the United States, Queiroz was asked about the fact that the U.S. soccer federation temporarily displayed on social media the flag of Iran without the Islamic Republic’s emblem in solidarity with the protest movement.
“I hope those … events surrounding this World Cup are a lesson for all of us in the future and let’s learn that our mission is to create entertainment and for 90 minutes make people happy,” the coach told a news conference.
Iran fell 6-2 to England on debut, but bounced back with a 2-0 win over Wales that allowed them to reach the clash with the United States with a chance of reaching the knockout stages.
The Qatar World Cup has been embroiled in controversy since long before it began, due to the host country’s attitude towards LGBT rights and the treatment it gives to migrant workers.
Queiroz said there was a time and place to use football to make an impact on the world and received applause from journalists when he spoke of “magical moments” of a simple gesture such as giving balls to impoverished children in Africa. “We stand in solidarity with humanitarian causes around the world,” he said.
England leads the zone with four points, followed by Iran with three, the United States with two and Wales with one.