• 16 June 2009
  • Posted By Michelle Moghtader
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

“How Soccer Explains the World”…except Iran?

Ghotbi inTehran Iran’s qualifying match for the World Cup is tomorrow. As Franklin Foer says in his book, “How Football Explains the World” when Iran qualified for the World Cup for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic back in 1997, “Their joy led them to dispense with official morality…dancing, drinking, and western pop music became the stuff of public celebration.” He goes on to say that women even began to throw off their hejabs and the Basij, who were supposed to calm the crowds, were actually overcome by joy and joined the crowds.

Now, their frustration and anger has already led Iranians to the streets. If Iran loses, and assuming the success of the team reflects the success of the country, will Ahmadinejad or Khamenei succumb to the pressures of change, further inciting the protesters and dividing the people? Seeing as people are already out in the streets, if Iran wins, even more people will pour out perhaps causing chaos which will surely be hard to quell. Will the win be a uniting force?

I find it very interesting that after Iran lost 2-1 versus Saudi Arabia on March 28 they fired the coach, Iranian Ali Daei and brought in Iranian-American Afshin Gotbi to salvage their bid. Was the loss a precursor of the current loss of stability in Iran? Perhaps they didn’t devote enough resources before, and by bringing in Gotbi they can re-energize the players and the game. Although he probably doesn’t see himself as so, but if the clean-shaven Gotbi, representative of the “West,” leads the team towards victory, will this be a signal to the Iranian government to open up towards the West and as Obama asked “unclench their fists?”

Under normal circumstances, sports newspapers would be sold out and people would be forecasting and preparing to watch the Iran v. S.Korea match. But in a couple of hours, Iranians aren’t predicting the outcome of the game, but the future of their country…all the while, the world is watching.

Posted By Michelle Moghtader

    5 Responses to ““How Soccer Explains the World”…except Iran?”

  1. Akbar says:


    There are two news reports that Iranian Grand Ayatullahs Nasir Makarem Shirazi, ‘Abdolkarim Ardabili, and Safi Gulpaygani, who are all independent of the ruling clique of religious scholars (‘ulama), have issued statements of concern over the election results, possible irregularities, and the violent state crackdown on the largely peaceful Mousavi and Reformist demonstrations.

  2. Alex says:

    Very interesting and timely article. I think the Iranian Americans and other Iranians around the world should show their support for the freedom-seeking people in Iran, by organizing demonstrations in all major cities in US and around the world.

  3. Ali Z says:

    Great Post Michelle!

  4. Ali S says:

    1 goal kept us out of the cup. What a shame.

  5. live score says:

    Hithank you for nice information.

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Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

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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