Team USA gamers share emotional embrace with Iran’s Saeid Ezatolahi

DOHA, Qatar – Saeid Ezatolahi wept. 

He’d given every little thing, and this time, it hadn’t been sufficient. As the ultimate whistle at Al Thumama Stadium signaled a 1-0 United States victory, there was nothing left for the Iran defensive midfielder to do. So, he sat on the turf, deep into the Qatari evening, buried his head in his arms and let the tears tumble.

Seconds later, he felt a giant arm round his shoulder. It was Josh Sargent, the USA ahead, who had dueled with him throughout a primary half through which the Individuals desperately chased a objective till one got here after 38 minutes through Christian Pulisic.

Sargent kneeled subsequent to Ezatolahi, hugged him, and provided some phrases of kindness and sympathy. Quickly after, USA substitute Brenden Aaronson seen the scene, noticed the anguish on the Iranian participant’s face, and came visiting, too.

Tim Weah joined them. As he approached, Weah’s face modified from considered one of beaming delight to one thing extra solemn. As Ezatolahi tried to gather himself, Weah took him by the arms and pulled him to his toes, earlier than hugging and whispering in his ear.

“I think it’s more than just football,” Weah advised me, as he left the stadium to return to the group’s Doha headquarters. “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. 

“I simply wished to unfold peace and love and present him we come from totally different backgrounds, we grew up otherwise. He’s nonetheless my household, he’s nonetheless my brother and I like him the identical method as the blokes I grew up with.” 

Unless you’ve been camping, hibernating, or technology detoxing the past week, chances are you’ve noticed the intense depth of the political subplot surrounding the Iran clash that ultimately decided second-place in Group B and sent Gregg Berhalter’s side into a round of 16 meeting with the Netherlands.

But whatever the discussions during the week, however many questions players had to answer that had nothing to do with the sport of soccer, the Americans recognized the pain of defeat. They’ve felt it, more times than they wish to remember. 

Simply not on a stage like this, not but not less than.

“I might really feel the emotion from him on the bottom,” Aaronson said. “It’s powerful, it’s a troublesome second for lots of issues. You place your coronary heart and soul and I feel he had an ideal recreation too, and an ideal match from Iran. It’s onerous to see that from a participant. All you wish to do is go and console them and inform them that every little thing goes to be OK. It’s only a human factor.”

Aaronson, Weah and Sargent are all 22 years old. None of them had ever met Ezatolahi before. The United States should be proud of its men’s soccer team, for what it did during Tuesday night’s win-or-go-home triumph. And, perhaps even more so, for what it did afterwards.

They were not the only three to offer some solace. There were handshakes all-round before the team headed to the locker room, as well as some pats on the back. Ezatolahi received more attention from the Americans because he was so visibly devastated. He’s had a club career that has taken him to Russia and Denmark and the Qatari league. He felt, quite reasonably, that this current generation of the Iranian team had a unique chance to achieve something special.

For Sargent, seeing Ezatolahi’s tears gave him a lump in his throat, and his own emotion welled. Even talking about it later, his voice cracked a little, and he will remember that part of the night as much as anything that happened during a frenetic 90 minutes.

“I simply actually really feel for any group,” Sargent told me. “Clearly it’s a giant match, regardless of who it was, seeing individuals upset like that touches me differently. It was on my method to the place the group was anyway, so I believed I’d say one thing good and inspiring. 

“Everybody is human, obviously. We’ve all been working our a**es 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.”

And so ends this whirlwind chapter of the World Cup for the Individuals, with the knockout rounds offering a contemporary new alternative. In some ways it’s a entire new match, each in format and pacing.

They transfer on having proven resilience and dedication, worthy attributes for any athlete within the greatest competitors of their profession.

And a facet of compassion, too, which can not win video games – however deserves our applause nonetheless.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports activities and the writer of the FOX Sports activities Insider publication. You may subscribe to the every day publication right here.

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