Iranian American living in Alabama talks World Cup and protests

Christian Pulisic of the United States lies on the pitch after scoring as teammates Sergino...
Christian Pulisic of the United States lies on the pitch after scoring as teammates Sergino Dest, left, and Josh Sargent celebrate during the World Cup group B soccer match between Iran and the United States at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 5:02 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - When was the last time your team lost, and you went out and celebrated?

That’s what’s happening in Iran, whose national team was eliminated from the World Cup by the U.S. yesterday, in a game you saw here on WBRC FOX6. The day after the game, an Iranian American in our community described his feelings about the game and the deeper struggle in his home country.

“I was conflicted, obviously.”

Mike Shabani is an immigration lawyer who likes to keep sports and politics separate.

“I’m a U.S. citizen, and I’ve lived here for a majority of my life. I wasn’t dissatisfied that the U.S. actually won. But the same token, like I said, I was conflicted because of the fact that I have half of my heart, you know, going that direction for, for the team to win. It was my favorite team.”

Shabani hopes Iran’s World Cup run has encouraged people to learn more about his home country.

“People think of Iran as being like Afghanistan and we are not. We are not an Arab. We’re Persians, you know, and, uh, we speak our own language.”

Shabani came to the U.S. to study in the 1970s and remembers leaving a country flourishing with oil-related wealth that was also modernizing with freedoms for women before the revolution that brought about the current repressive regime...whose brutality is the reason people celebrated Iran’s World Cup loss.

And while the death in September of a woman in police custody ignited the current anti-government protests, Shabani says this uprising will succeed where others have failed.

“Because of, uh, 43 years of, being abused and oppressed, per se, you know, by their, by the government. And this time, the difference is that, as you know, it’s been almost two months. And these protestors, they’re not giving up and they’re not gonna give up.”

Shabani says what is critical at this point is for Iranian Americans and others living outside the country to support the protestors.

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