Détente? Iran Soccer Rivals Will Play on US Soil

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2009 3:58 PM CDT
Iranian football team players celebrate their win over the Iraqi team.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Two of Iran’s most bitter soccer rivals may soon become tools of diplomacy, the Guardian reports. Persepolis and Esteghlal Tehran are planning US tours, to culminate in a match, likely in a city with a large Iranian population. “For holding several friendly matches, including one against the Tehran Esteghlal team, Persepolis will travel to the US,” Persepolis’ manager told a state media outlet.

“Has Iran chosen football, in which it is skilled and privileged, compared to pingpong?” an official said, referencing the sport that helped spark US-China détente; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is well known as a soccer enthusiast. Meetings between Persepolis and Eteghlal are notoriously violent, particularly in regard to fans, but the American version could be tamer.