Gregg Berhalter (left) and Tyler Adams were put through the ringer by the Iranian media. (Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

In one of the most surreal press conferences in the history of soccer, let alone the World Cup, members of the Iranian state media on Monday grilled U.S. men’s head coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams on several topics not related to both teams’ vital Group B finale on Tuesday.

The Americans need to win to move onto the knockout round in Qatar.

Given the tense relationship between the United States and Iran has been tense over the past 33 years, more political questions were hurled at Berhalter and Adams than many U.S. Soccer observers can remember at any press gathering over the past four decades. That includes the U.S. and Iranian press conference prior to their meeting at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Both men reportedly showed great restraint in giving their answers, navigating a difficult Q&A in Doha, Qatar.

One reporter asked Berhalter: “Sport is something that should bring nations closer together and you are a sportsperson. Why is it that you should not ask your government to take away its military fleet from the Persian Gulf?”

Berhalter replied that he did not know enough about the geopolitical climate to talk about U.S. military maneuvers or immigration policies.

“I don’t know enough about politics, I’m a soccer coach,” he said. “I’m not well versed on international politics so I can’t comment on that.”

That was just the proverbial top of the iceberg that the two men faced.

Berhalter also was asked about U.S. immigration policies. A reporter wanted to know why Iranians needed a passport to enter the U.S. but American citizens did not need any to get into Iran.

The 49-year-old head coach also had to address the social media controversy that erupted over the weekend, when U.S. Soccer removed the Islamic Republic emblem from Iran’s flag on posts to show support for protesters in the Middle Eastern nation.

The Iranian Football Federation complained to FIFA about the U.S. Soccer removing the Islamic Republic symbol from the nation’s flag in some social media posts.

Berhalter said the players and staffers “had no idea about what U.S. Soccer put out.” Those posts were deleted.

Iran has been rocked by protests following the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating strict hijab rules. Several Iran players did not sing the country’s national anthem before their Group B opening defeat to England.

According to ESPN, Berhalter said, “All we can do on our behalf is apologize on behalf of the players and the staff, but it’s not something that we are part of.”

One Iranian media member told Berhalter, according to Yahoo.com’s Henry Bushnell, that there was “no support of your team” in the USA amid “the high rise of inflation and economic problems.”

Berhalter responded that 19 million people watched the U.S.-England match. U.S. Soccer press officer Michael Kammarman corrected the coach, saying that it was 20 million.

Adams was asked about discrimination against Black people in the U.S. and was swiped for pronouncing Iran as “Eye-ran” instead of “E-ran.” Berhalter faced questions about U.S. immigration and naval policy.

An Iran’s Press TV reporter chastised Adams for the pronunciation of Iran. Adams pronounced it as Eye-ran instead of E-ran. Adams apologized.

The reporter then asked, “Are you OK to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people?”

To which Adams, a Black man who grew up in a White family in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. replied, “There’s discrimination everywhere you go. One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilating to different cultures, is that in the U.S. we’re continuing to make progress every single day.”

According to Bushnell, a few Iranian reporters applauded Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and forward Karim Ansarifard before and after their news conference on Monday.

Which had to make the day even more surreal.