The Iranian cheetah has subdued the Welsh dragon and is now hunting the American eagle.
Today, for the first time, the national team of Iran (or the Islamic Republic?) has a chance to make history and qualify for the next level.
After the victory over Wales on Friday and ahead of tonight's game, the social networks are full of excitement, cheetahs and eagles, and even the heroes of Iranian mythology were recruited to wish success to the players above a huge billboard in Valiyatsar Square in Tehran.
The voices opposing the team are a minority this time.
Is it because they care less?
Secret documents leaked in the last few days by the hacker group Black Reward may be causing everyone to simply lose faith in social networks and news and comments on news sites.
Billboards in Tehran, photo: AFP
Summary of the previous chapters
Summary of the previous chapters
Until a week before the World Cup, national teams and athletes from all disciplines expressed support for the popular protest and the networks cheered them on every such gesture.
After the photos of the meeting with Raisi and the photos of the laughs while Iran mourned the boy Kian Pirfalch, the players of the national team became in the eyes of those protesting in the streets the "Islamic Republic national team, which does not represent me".
The supportive speech of the team captain on the first day and the failure to sing the national anthem on the second day were not enough.
After the stinging defeat to England, sweets were distributed in Tehran.
After the game, Iranian players refused to talk about politics, in the second game they moved their lips during the national anthem, but still refused to wave the flag of the Islamic Republic as part of the victory celebrations.
Then Black Reward leaked on the group's Telegram channel the spoils of the hack into the servers of the regime-affiliated Fars news agency.
For example, a document called "Football World Cup Operation Plan" to influence public opinion, a set of instructions for editors at the news agencies, and a recording of an Iranian and Qatari official coordinating security cooperation and crowd screening in stadiums.
Most of the concerns that the programs try to prevent have come true: lack of interest in games;
Contrast between the "Iranian team" and the "Islamic Republic team";
Polarization in the people against the background of the attitude towards the national team;
victories that did not improve the national mood;
black armbands at practice game and silence at game anthem;
Slogans against the regime and the mention of Mahsa Amini in the stands, and unruly footballers such as the legends Ali Karimi and Ali Da'i took advantage of the ratings of the World Cup to be interviewed by hostile media.
Be silent in the national anthem, photo: Reuters
To convince the players of the national team to cooperate, use "money and threats": advancing to the next level will earn them a considerable financial reward, but if they do not sing the national anthem they will not be able to represent Iran and win this money.
It puts their silence during the playing of the anthem in the match against England in a more heroic light.
After they still did not sing the anthem, their families were threatened with arrest and torture.
The influence and awareness campaign that was revealed was designed to present the team as the national team of Iran and not only of the Islamic Republic: to create expressions of joy over victories out of nothing and emphasize them in the coverage;
To send spectators "on behalf" to the stadiums - in the game against the USA there should be several thousand more than in the previous ones; "Operation talkbacks" - an initiative activity on the Internet and on press sites that will make the protesters feel that they are in the minority, and the footballers feel that the people are behind them when they identify with the regime's values; also the use of Iranian symbols , was mentioned in the documents - including specifically the cheetahs we saw at the beginning.
The documents that were revealed frame everything that was seen on the networks and on the television in the last few days in a completely different way, and this can also explain why the protestors no longer bother to criticize the national team.
And what about the reference to the United States?
The enemies of the regime at home are much more interesting now than the enemies overseas.
The regime recruited new supporters, photo: AFP
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