Iran’s players declined to sing the national anthem in their first game against England in an apparent show of solidarity with protesters. They sang quietly on Friday before their 2-0 win over Wales, where boos and jeers were heard from Iran supporters.
“We can’t speak for them and their message. We know that they’re all emotional,” Zimmerman said. “They’re all going through things right now, they’re human. Again, we empathise with that human emotion and completely feel for them.”
The United States and Iran will face off in a decisive Group B clash with their place at the World Cup on the line, in a match which was already freighted by decades of enmity between the nations.
With England sitting top of Group B with four points and facing bottom side Wales in their final group game on Tuesday, the Iran-U.S. contest will determine which team goes through to the last 16.
Their eagerly awaited meeting is a rematch of the 1998 World Cup group stage contest – which Iran won 2-1 – when relations between the two nations had also been hostile.