Steve Sampson claimed Iranian government officials took passports of its players at halftime and said 'if they didn’t beat the United States, they were not welcome back into Iran, nor were their families welcome to leave Iran.'

Former USA coach Steve Sampson has claimed the Iranian government intervened at halftime of their 1998 World Cup clash, saying officials confiscated the Iran team’s passports and threatened their safety if they failed to beat USA.

Iran won the group match 2-1 in Lyon, termed as ‘the mother of all games’ by US Soccer Federation Executive Director Hank Steinbrecher following the World Cup draw due to the long-standing political tensions between the two countries.

They meet again on Tuesday, with both teams needing a win to advance into the last-16 of the World Cup in Qatar. 

But speaking to TIME, the USA coach Sampson has detailed his memories of the highly-charged event, including one extraordinary detail.

Sampson claims he was told by Iran manager, Jalal Talebi, that Iranian government officials confiscated passports of the players at the halftime break, with Iran leading 1-0. 

And apparently players were told ‘if they didn’t beat the United States, they were not welcome back into Iran, nor were their families welcome to leave Iran.’

Steve Sampson claimed Iranian government officials took passports of its players at halftime and said 'if they didn’t beat the United States, they were not welcome back into Iran, nor were their families welcome to leave Iran.'

Steve Sampson claimed Iranian government officials took passports of its players at halftime and said ‘if they didn’t beat the United States, they were not welcome back into Iran, nor were their families welcome to leave Iran.’

Iran led against the United States 1-0 at half before surging to a famously recalled 2-1 victory

Iran led against the United States 1-0 at half before surging to a famously recalled 2-1 victory  

FIFA procedure dictated Team B — Iran — were to walk over and shake hands of Team A, the US, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to pull Team Melli out of the tournament resultantly. 

A compromise was struck whereby USA players instead went to their counterparts and shook hands before standing side-by-side for a pregame photo

Iranian players also gave USA players white roses during their exchange — a symbolic gesture of peace. 

During the game, the US had their chances but Iran ultimately triumphed 2-1 in their second group game. To those involved, it was beyond an opportunity to claim three points. 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to pull Iran out of the tournament if they were to shake hands

 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to pull Iran out of the tournament if they were to shake hands  

Iran took the lead in the first-half with US goalkeeper Kasey Keller unable to keep the ball out

Iran took the lead in the first-half with US goalkeeper Kasey Keller unable to keep the ball out

Fans sat shoulder-to-shoulder at the Gerland Stadiumm despite their nations' political tensions

Fans sat shoulder-to-shoulder at the Gerland Stadiumm despite their nations’ political tensions

‘It became very, very clear that for Iran, that was much more than a soccer game,’ said Alexi Lalas, an unused substitute in the game, and now FOX Soccer pundit told TIME.

‘They harnessed that in a way that we didn’t.’ Sampson and various players on the roster cried in the aftermath of their defeat. 

‘It was a complete fiasco and failure and embarrassment’ 

Prior to the game, the USA took an apolitical approach on the political landscape, choosing to focus solely on the sporting aspect of the game, with Sampson acquiescing to requests from FIFA, the organizers and the US federation.

It’s something he now regrets.

‘I went along with that,’ he said. ‘In hindsight, I would have made it about politics. 

The USA defeat to the Arab nation eliminated the USMNT from the knockout stages of the WC

The USA defeat to the Arab nation eliminated the USMNT from the knockout stages of the WC

USA coach Steve Sampson listened to requests from FIFA & USSF to take an apolitical stance. He resigned following the World Cup after the US finished last among the 32 teams.

USA coach Steve Sampson listened to requests from FIFA & USSF to take an apolitical stance. He resigned following the World Cup after the US finished last among the 32 teams.

Fans of both nations descended upon the tournament and were seen in photos side-by-side

Fans of both nations descended upon the tournament and were seen in photos side-by-side 

‘A coach’s job is to use any and every tool available to him to prepare his team.

‘So many Americans have been hurt so dramatically by the Iranian regime,’ Sampson continued. ‘We could have played for them.’

Sampson resigned following the World Cup after the US finished last among the 32 teams. 

The Iran loss eliminated them from progression — a double blow for both the team and coach. 

Iranian players celebrate during the game played in Lyon, the French capital, situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region

Iranian players celebrate during the game played in Lyon, the French capital, situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region

Iran and the United States meet again on Tuesday afternoon ET, with both teams needing a win to advance into the last-16 of the World Cup in Qatar.

Iran and the United States meet again on Tuesday afternoon ET, with both teams needing a win to advance into the last-16 of the World Cup in Qatar.

Claudio Reyna, whose son Gio plays for the current US team, celebrated Brian McBride's late consolation goal, but it was too little, too late for the Stars and Stripes squad

Claudio Reyna, whose son Gio plays for the current US team, celebrated Brian McBride’s late consolation goal, but it was too little, too late for the Stars and Stripes squad 

The revelation comes just days before the nations face off in an equally pivotal game with the USMNT in a must-win situation. 

Gregg Berhalter’s side sit on two points after draws with Wales and England, meanwhile Iran have three — one less than group leaders England — after a late win over Wales Friday. 

Some things may have changed and yet 24 years on, the US need to sparkle if they are to avoid devastation at the hands of Iran once more. 

Iran and the USA clash on Tuesday, November 29 at 2pm ET at Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar.

Players of both countries stood next to one another in a show of peace prior to the matchup

Players of both countries stood next to one another in a show of peace prior to the matchup

England's tie with old rival England has set up a must-win clash against fellow foe Iran Tuesday

England’s tie with old rival England has set up a must-win clash against fellow foe Iran Tuesday

Some things may have changed and yet 24 years on, the US need to sparkle if they are to avoid devastation at the hands of Iran once more - who are hot off the back of a 2-0 victory vs. Wales

Some things may have changed and yet 24 years on, the US need to sparkle if they are to avoid devastation at the hands of Iran once more – who are hot off the back of a 2-0 victory vs. Wales 

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