Iran’s “Team Melli” brings fans together in the US

Digital Original

The 2018 FIFA World Cup games are underway, and people around the globe are showing off their team spirit. Iran is the underdog from Asia, but has quickly become a fan favorite. “Team Melli” (which literally means “the nation’s team” in Persian) started off the competition strong, with a 1-0 win against Morocco.

CGTN’s Asieh Namdar went down to a special World Cup viewing party to see why this team has football fans in a frenzy.

There was excitement, jubilation and four-years worth of anticipation among fans of Iran’s national football team, ‘Team Melli’. Supporters in the U.S. came from near and far to watch Iran play Morocco at a viewing party in Washington, D.C.

Iranian-Americans Jason and Yeganeh Rezaian helped organize the party to unify fans and have some fun. But more importantly, the event stood out as a place to cheer on the highest-ranked Asian team. Football, after all, is a big part of Iranians’ national pride.

CGTN’s Asieh Namdar and Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian (Photo: Monna Kashfi)

Fans watching the game hoped the team played as good as it looked. Team Melli was the first to arrive in Russia, and did it in style. A photo of the team blew up the internet, melting hearts everywhere.

But it hasn’t been all fun and games for the team this year. There’s been controversy as well. Politics collided with sports and caused a huge uproar when athletic wear brand “Nike” refused football cleats to Iran’s national team.

Nike released a statement saying, “U.S. sanctions mean that, as a U.S. company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian national team at this time”.

Iran’s national football team Head coach Carlos Queiroz controls the ball during a training session of Iran at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

It was setback football fans at the watch party hoped wouldn’t stop the team from their “goal” of advancing to the knockout stage. Team Melli did indeed prevail in its opening match against Morocco, winning 1-0. The Iranian players will face the 2010 FIFA World Champion, Spain, on June 20.