A Journey into the Wild, Complex and Unique World of Football in Iran

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June 2017, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

In the video, the two dozen or so members of the Iranian national football squad sit in two rows, facing each other. The long, modestly appointed, high-ceilinged room is the office of the presidential administration in central Tehran, the Iranian capital. The players are patiently, almost nervously waiting to begin. nike nfl jerseys for sale Between the two rows of men at the end of the room is the country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, wearing a white turban and sitting on a chair trimmed with gold leaf, the sole sign of presidential opulence. Behind him hang two portraits. Over his right shoulder, the image of Imam Ruhollah Khomeini, the ayatollah who led the 1979 Islamic revolution, transforming Iran and its relationship with the rest of the world. Over his left, the portrait of Iran’s current supreme leader, and the true and final arbiter of power in the Islamic Republic today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Two days ago Iran qualified for their fifth World Cup with ease. They had beaten Uzbekistan 2-0 in the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. The national team, also known as Team Melli,nfl cheap jerseys china¬† had gone unbeaten during qualification as a new generation of Iranian stars were born. Sardar Azmoun, Iran’s highly regarded striker, had scored the opening goal, set up by the equally talented young winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Tens of thousands took to the streets to celebrate.

Football, and especially the men’s national team, is often a rare good news story for a country that has been an international pariah for nearly four decades, and whose economy and civil society nfl jerseys for sale cheap¬† have withered as a result. So now, today, the president of the country wants to honour the team for making it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the third team after Russia and Brazil to qualify. “It was my wish to receive you here,” President Rouhani tells the room, “and, as the representative of the people, to congratulate you.”

Coach Carlos Queiroz is the first to approach the president and warmly shakes his hand. The combative Portuguese leader had masterminded the team’s success. This will be his second World Cup with Iran, although he had taken South Africa to the 2002 World Cup (resigning before the tournament began after falling out with the South African federation) cheap official nfl jerseys and his native Portugal to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He made his name as Sir Alex Ferguson’s highly rated cheap nfl jerseys cheap shipping assistant at Manchester United before taking charge of Real Madrid. But the Portugal job ended in recriminations that almost led to a ban from international football, a series of misfortunes that eventually brought him to Iran in 2011, when he was at his lowest ebb. He has been here ever since.