US football player lauded for hugging heartbroken Iranian opponent

Team USA football player Antonee Robinson has been lauded after hugging Iranian opponent Ramin Rezian after the US beat Iran 1-0, booting the team out of the World Cup in Qatar and advancing the US to face the Netherlands in the round of 16.

“Iran’s regime has tried hard to brainwash its people against the US, but most Americans who’ve been to Iran will tell you it’s among the friendliest places they’ve ever visited,” a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment thinktank, Karim Sadjadpour, tweeted on Wednesday morning after the Tuesday game.

“It was a competitive and respectful game from start to finish. Much respect to both sides. I applaud these Iranian players - no other team in this World Cup has faced more distractions off the pitch,” one Twitter user said.

Some Iranians celebrated the loss, The Independent reported on Wednesday.

They were cheering for the opponent as they saw their own team as serving their authoritarian leaders that many Iranians have been fighting against in the streets since the death of Mahsa Amini on 16 September in the custody of the morality police.

“Even though it’s one in the morning, the Islamic Republic has so damaged the people that the football-loving people of Iran are celebrating the defeat of Iran,” a narrator says in footage of street celebrations following the loss. “It’s really a strange thing. But it’s excellent. The unity of the people is excellent.”

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Many celebrated the moment between Mr Robinson and Mr Rezian, including Christiane Amanpour and Jim Sciutto of CNN.

Ms Amanpour said it showed “humanity without borders”.

“I can attest - outside the government and security services, I’ve been warmly received by most Iranians on a dozen trips to Iran,” Mr Sciutto said.

“Back in the Shah days, I worked with a lot of Iranians who were in college in Boston (as I was) and they were the best and nicest colleagues en masse that I’ve ever had. A shame what religion has done to both our countries,” one Twitter user responded.

“The best of humanity on display: after USA defeated Iran in the World Cup, the players shared an emotional moment, showing how sportsmanship can transcend geopolitics,” Hadi Partovi wrote.

“This is the best...which goes to show you it’s hardly ever the players that politicize the game. They play because they love it. This is, for me, is what the peaceable kingdom can begin to look like,” Scott Wagoner said.

“There are good people in this world. Antonee Robinson is one of them,” one account holder added.

“I was desperately hoping to see something like this last night but the pictures cut with USA celebrating. Shows that sport really can be a force for good,” another said.