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David Willis at the Rose Bowl
One Iranian came all the way from London
 real 28k

Monday, 17 January, 2000, 00:46 GMT
Enemies share soccer spoils

Divided in politics, united in football


Two of the world's most bitter political enemies, Iran and the US, shared a diplomatic 1-1 draw in their historic football match in California.

It was only the second time in 20 years the two sides had met and the first that the Islamic Republic of Iran had played on US soil.

Tehran has vilified the US for years as the "Great Satan", while Washington sees Iran as one of the world's most active terrorist states.


The players thanked the crowd for their support

Despite the importance of the fixture, the visitors kept their nerve, taking an early lead in the seventh minute. Nehti Mahdavikia flipped the ball under the US goalkeeper from the edge of the six-yard box.

He had also scored against the US when the two sides met in the World Cup in 1998. Iran won that fixture 2-1 and put the Americans out of the tournament.

This time, the US came back through Chris Armas in the 48th minute.

Home from home

But the majority of the 49,212 crowd in the Pasadena Rose Bowl were rooting for the visitors.


France 98: Thaw in relations?

California is home to one of the largest concentrations of Iranians outside Iran.

Thousands of Iranian Americans - some with the Iranian flag painted on their face - crammed into the stadium to watch. Most were seeing their team play live for the very first time.

While many of the state's million or so Iranians are hostile to the Tehran's Islamic regime, they have rallied strongly behind their national side.

A game between the Iran and Mexico last week attracted the largest-ever attendance for a soccer match in northern California.

Controversy

The match sparked controversy earlier in the week, with an Iranian extremist group calling for beer advertisements to be removed from the stadium.


Iranians rallied behind their team

The Iranian authorities also complained about police searching the luggage of team members, although they were excused fingerprinting on arrival at the airport.

Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic ties, but they have recently stepped up cultural exchanges.

There was an exchange of wrestling teams in 1998, and the current three-match tour is seen as another small step toward thawing relations since the election of reforming Iranian President Muhammad Khatami in 1997.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Beer adverts spark religious row
21 Jun 98 |  Football
Iran win puts US out
21 Jun 98 |  Middle East
'Great Satan' defeated 2-1
18 Jun 98 |  Middle East
US-Iranian ties: chronology
06 Jun 98 |  Middle East
Football fever in Iran

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