Lawrence soccer fans celebrate U.S. win over Iran in World Cup

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Lawrence resident Subarna Bhattachan (wearing a #17 jersey) and other soccer fans at Lawrence's Red Lyon Tavern begin to celebrate as the final seconds of extra time tick down in the U.S. win against Iran as part of the World Cup on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

Story updated at 7:13 p.m. Tuesday:

With only one goal protecting the U.S. from elimination from the World Cup, the chants of “U.S.A.” and “I believe that we will win” were a hope rather than a guarantee as they echoed through the tense crowd in the Red Lyon Tavern.

The nine minutes of extra time in the U.S. team’s 1-0 win against Iran included a close shot against the U.S in the 92nd minute and a play that led to Iran unsuccessfully calling for a penalty in the final two minutes. As the extra time neared its end, the chant that briefly began was a simple one — “Blow the whistle” — before cheers and yelling signaled the end of the U.S. team’s final group stage game and their advancement to the knockout stage of the World Cup tournament.

Lawrence resident Subarna Bhattachan said the last 10 minutes of the game were tense, and when the whistle sounded it was “absolute relief.” Bhattachan said he’s been following the U.S. team since 1990 and was impressed by the team’s play.

“It was a beautiful goal,” Bhattachan said. “This is a young team with a lot of talent.”

The goal, scored by Christian Pulisic, came in the first half, after Pulisic knocked in a pass that was headed to him by teammate Sergiño Dest. Pulisic collided with Iran’s keeper in the play and ended up leaving the game with an injury.

University of Kansas student Garrett Howard also said the game had him on edge.

“I was a bit nervous for probably like the last 25 minutes because we decided to sit back, subbed on some extra defenders,” Howard said. “It looked like we were playing for the 1-nil.”

Howard said he thought the team played well throughout the group stage of the tournament and the win was well deserved, but he thought the team needs more scoring options going forward.

After two ties, 1-1 against Wales and 0-0 against England, the U.S. had to win its game against Iran to advance out of the first round of the tournament, known as the group stage. The World Cup tournament, which began in host country Qatar on Nov. 20 and will end Dec. 18, consists of two rounds. While the first round breaks the 32 qualifying teams into eight groups of four, with the top two finishers in each group advancing, the second stage of the tournament operates on a knockout basis.

The game was a more subdued affair on the KU campus, where some Iranian students gathered in an auditorium in Nichols Hall to watch the game (The Institute for Information Sciences, or I2S, based in Nichols Hall, has been playing soccer games for students during the World Cup, according to I2S communications specialist David Tamez).

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

University of Kansas students, including Arman Ghasemi, at far left, watch the U.S.-Iran game at Nichols Hall on Nov. Nov. 29, 2022.

Following the death of a young woman in police custody, protests and government crackdown on protesters, the Iranian national team did not sing the country’s national anthem in its opening game as a form of protest. Arman Ghasemi, who has been in the U.S. for 3 1/2 years, is certainly a soccer fan, having woken up to watch Iran play a 4 a.m. game earlier in the tournament, but he said it was really hard to separate what was happening in Iran from the national team. He said people have called for the players to speak out more.

“We have a complicated feeling that we don’t know if we should be happy if they win or not,” Ghasemi said. “Because now the situation is the government versus people in Iran.”

Ghasemi, who said toward the beginning of the first half that he predicted the game might end in a draw, had his sights on other goals, expressing support for the protesters’ call for “Women, Life, Freedom.”

“I hope that we get to the point that we have freedom in Iran, and we can reach our goal, which is having a free Iran,” Ghasemi said. “I want to be the voice of my people back home and say that we are supporting women, life, freedom.”

The matchup itself was also not without political overtones, as Iran called for the U.S. to be expelled from the tournament after the United States Soccer Federation made a social media post that included an altered Iranian flag that did not include the country’s emblem and Islamic script. The U.S. win means Iran will not advance in the tournament.

Back at the Red Lyon, some patrons began to disperse out the bar’s red double doors, while others lingered at tables. Among them was Red Lyon owner Sue Geoffrion Neverve. She expressed appreciation for some of the bar’s regulars, who she said led some of the chants, and the positive energy they bring. She said in the end, the team did what it needed to do to advance.

“The team is so young and yet they played so well,” she said. “One to nothing may not sound so impressive, but that’s what they needed to do and they did it.”

The U.S. team will play the Netherlands at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Soccer fans at Lawrence’s Red Lyon Tavern watch the U.S.-Iran game as part of the World Cup on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.


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