Lost in the tenseness of the United States' 1-0 win over Iran Tuesday is what happened in the moments after the final whistle sounded.
American players embraced their opponents, both on the pitch and with support online, following the victory that sent the U.S. to the Round of 16 while sending the Iranians back home.
The embrace and consoling of Ramin Rezaian of @TeamMelliIran by Antonee Robinson @USMNT#FIFAWorldCupQatar2022
Islamic Republic lost 1 - 0 and has been eliminated from the #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/VE48PaYdYx
— Samira Mohyeddin سمیرا (@SMohyeddin) November 30, 2022
Love this. USA beat #Iran but Josh Sargent & DeAndre Yedlin console Saeid Ezatolahi.
Tim Weah, who also came over, sums it up: “we grew up differently. He is still my family, he is still my brother and I love him the same way as the guys I grew up with." #IranvsUSA pic.twitter.com/qxlLhuMIYz
— Omid Djalili (@omid9) November 30, 2022
This transcended traditional post-game sportsmanship or the proverbial handshake. It looked like genuine human connections.
"I think the United States and Iran have had so many issues politically and I just wanted to show that we are all human beings and we all love each other," Weah said. "I just wanted to spread peace and love and show him we come from different backgrounds, we grew up differently. He is still my family, he is still my brother and I love him the same way as the guys I grew up with."
The Iranian team appeared to be under a lot of pressure at the World Cup as nationwide protests have rocked the country over the government's treatment of women, especially following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who was arrested for allegedly wearing a hijab too loosely and who later died in police custody. The team voiced its support for the Iranian people before its match with England and then refused to sing their country's national anthem at the match.
Tensions rose even higher before the players even hit the field. U.S. Soccer faced backlash after it altered the Iranian flag in support of the protests in Iran, which led to and politically charged news conference for head coach Gregg Berhalter and midfielder Tyler Adams. Berhalter apologized for the alteration and said he “had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out." Iran also reportedly threatened the families of Iranian players as well if they didn't "behave" against the U.S., according to CNN.
But when the game ended, the players just wanted to share a bit of humanity with each other.
"I just really feel for any team," Sargent told Fox Sports. " ... Everybody is human, obviously. We’ve all been working our asses off to get to this important point of our lives. This is the pinnacle of everybody’s career. I know it is not an easy situation when you lose."