Iran’s Ezatolahi embodies the disappointment of World Cup defeat


Doha, Qatar – It was a night of gut-wrenching, gut-wrenching despair for people Iran, this is what happens when you exit a FIFA World Cup, And, no, it doesn’t really matter whether you bow after beating the opposition or after a foul, round a tight edge or after being blown out.

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it hurts. That whole “head held high/we’re proud” stuff may provide a balm at some point, but not at the final whistle. And sometimes not.

When Spanish referee Mateu Lahoj blew the final whistle, United States of america was beat Iran 1-0, Fiery appeal drawn into the air after contact between the last vestiges of hope and the imaginary VAR box Cameron Carter-Vickers And Mehdi Teremi – had collapsed a moment ago.

The Irans were outside, and darkness had fallen. Many Iranians simply collapsed on the pitch due to physical and mental exhaustion. Sayeed EzatolahiThe emotional leader of Team Melee, has been down longer than anyone.

Ezatolahi is a bruiser, an enforcer, a blue-collar defensive midfielder whose main job is to run, run, run and then win the ball and pass it to flare players. His glory is not a position; This is the role of the anonymous warrior.

He is 26 years old and has played for nine clubs in seven countries. From Denmark to Doha, from Rostov to Reading, from Madrid to Makhachkala, he is the prototype of the traveler. Take (and cut off) shoes, will travel. He is Ezatolahi. This is not the kind of guy you expect to see sobbing. Cursing and breaking things? Perhaps.

And yet, there he was: the shell of the man. Because there is nothing like playing for your country and giving your all for it. The other 10 jerseys he has worn were temporary; Team Melli No. 6 shirt can also be tattooed on his body. And, what struck you as he lay there, slumped on the ground, beating his chest, was the connection that was so apparent with the opponents who had just harmed him.

josh sargent, limping and with one bare leg, bent over him, touched his shoulder, then his head, whispering to him. moments later, it was Branden Aaronson, Same game. Honoring a fallen opponent. timothy wow went over, reached down with both hands, and helped him up. Weston McKenney went to Ezatolahi and embraced him.

You hesitate to give too much power to games. Partly because it’s frivolous, partly because it’s cheesy, partly because the “football unites the world” mantra has often been co-opted by the bad guys. And yet, in that moment, especially in his conversation with the sergeant, you’d have to be pretty stone-hearted to keep from moving.

Of course, in his case, as with all Iran players, the background only served to make things drier, more emotionally punishing. His country is wracked with protests — for women’s rights, for workers’ rights, for ethnic rights — and protests have been met with violent repression, Multiple outlets reported that the players and their families were Threatened for showing solidarity with the protesters, an allegation which has been denied. whatever — and whatever the squad’s personal views – these were the young people who were tasked with performing on the world stage with the heaviest of hearts.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said While “the dream is over” he has never seen “a group of players who gave so much and received so little in return.” You suspect he wasn’t just referring to the effort on the pitch, but the suffocating yoke he had labored under for the past three weeks.

Izatolahi embodied this on the pitch, during the game and at the final whistle. Sobbing in the arms of an assistant coach, he dutifully walked before TV cameras for a post-match flash interview, even as stadium DJs played thumping music in the background and FIFA-appointed hype The man (one for each team) spoke nonsense. to rouse the crowd at the resounding Al Thumama Stadium. The contrast between artificial, plastic vulgarity and real, intimate feelings was palpable.

The warrior can rest now. Warrior can now recover. And perhaps there is also comfort in the compassion and empathy shown by his detractors, from Sargent to Aaronson, Weah to McKenney. It’s a kind of togetherness that can sometimes only exist between warriors on opposite sides of the battlefield, warriors who know that – on any other day – it could have been in the form of empty, rowing ships.

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