• 26 May 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Diplomacy

Soccer diplomacy with Iran

cross-posted from democracyarsenal.org


We had ping pong diplomacy with China, and now we may soon engage in soccer diplomacy with Iran.

Reports out of Tehran indicate that the US Soccer Federation has inquired about the possibility of holding a friendly with Iran sometime in October and November. The AP reported:

A soccer game between the United States and Iran this fall could be in the works. The possibility exists after the head of Iran’s soccer federation said Monday he received a proposal from his U.S. counterpart about an exhibtion game in October or November… Iran Football Federation chief Ali Kafashian told the Fars news agency the Iranians are considering the offer. But USSF spokesman Neil Buethe would neither confirm nor deny the offer… a soccer match would be an extremely high-profile event in Iran, where the sport is a national passion.

In 1971 – a year before Nixon went to China – US table tennis players visited China in what marked a thaw in tensions between U.S. and China. Soccer is the biggest sport in Iran and the public has tremendous pride in the Iranian national team. Having the U.S. team travel to Tehran would to send a signal that both sides are ready for a significant thaw in relations. Perhaps a high-level American dignitary would go as well.   

To make this even more interesting, having struggled in World Cup qualifying, Iran recently replaced their coach with an American citizen. Yes an American citizen is coaching the Iranian national soccer team. Afshin Ghotbi was born in Iran but gained American citizenship after living in the U.S. since a teenager – he even played soccer at UCLA and was an assistant coach for the U.S. in the 1998 world cup when we lost to Iran.

If the game goes forward, not only would it be smart diplomacy on the part of the U.S., it would also be smart preparation by coach Bob Bradley in the run-up to the World Cup. The Iranian side is quite good and will expose the U.S. team to a different style of play. Additionally, I can’t think of an environment that would better prepare the U.S. for the world cup then playing in Tehran. All in all seems like a great idea. Hopefully, the Iranians – despite their world cup qualifying difficulties – take us up on the offer.

And to top it off maybe we can finally avenge that 2-1 1998 world cup loss.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    3 Responses to “Soccer diplomacy with Iran”

  1. Brendan says:

    I think its a good idea, not too sure if the US will beat Iran but will be a good match nevertheless.

  2. arsenal blog says:

    good idea i think nice blog anyway 😉

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
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Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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