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Nov. 28, 2022, 4:31 a.m. ET

Nov. 28, 2022, 4:31 a.m. ET

Jürgen Klinsmann, after all, was mistaken. The previous United States manager was mistaken when he suggested, during Iran’s victory against Wales, that stretching rules and blurring boundaries was a part of Iran’s soccer “culture.” He was mistaken when he implied that the Guatemalan referee had tolerated it since it was his culture, too.

He cannot, really, have been surprised by the response in Iran, which has ranged from outright fury — Iran’s manager, Carlos Queiroz, inviting Klinsmann to go to Iran’s training camp to learn more in regards to the country’s players, fans and culture, but only on the condition that he resign his position on FIFA’s technical committee — to the hilarious.

The Iranian soccer federation’s drive-by on Klinsmann was, to be frank, immaculate: suggesting that German soccer culture shouldn’t be judged by the 1982 World Cup match often known as the Shame of Gijón, or that Klinsmann’s legacy as a player should extend beyond his “dramatic dives.” Whoever composed that specific missive must have signed it with a chef’s kiss.

Credit…Matthew Childs/Reuters

The one problem is that, if we’re all completely honest, Klinsmann was right. Pushing the boundaries is an element of Iranian soccer culture, and Guatemalan soccer culture, and German soccer culture, and South American soccer culture, and everybody else’s soccer culture, including the English, who really don’t prefer it in the event you point that out.

It is perhaps called various things in other places — viveza or picardía in South America, being “streetwise” or indulging in “gamesmanship” in English, furbizia in Italian — but its meaning is identical. And more often than not, crucially, it is just not said with clucking disapproval (unless the opposition is doing it). It is just not a slur. If anything, it is claimed with a furtive admiration.

It’s unimaginable to know exactly what Klinsmann meant — who’re we to evaluate the intent of a person’s soul? — but there’s a great likelihood that, should he keep his promise to elucidate his statement to Queiroz, he’ll indicate that his error was in clumsily implying that Guatemala and Iran are someway unique cases, the one places on the planet where players will do whatever they will to win. That will be mistaken. Trying to achieve a bonus nonetheless you may is one among those things that unites players from across continents, and so it should. That is an expert sport, not a hobby. They’re there to win.

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