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.

Undrafted Rookies Making Noise in Offseason Workouts

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NFL teams have yet to conduct padded practices, but there’s still plenty to pay attention to during workouts.

If a player isn’t faring well on the practice field, it’s a bad sign. Conversely, standout performances during OTAs and minicamp can fuel hype heading into training camp.  nfl authentic jerseys

While it’s naive to buy glowing reports about a player before he plays a regular-season snap, undrafted rookies in particular deserve scrutiny. After all, they’re a bunch of underdogs hoping to work their way up from the bottom.

The early buzz below provides an idea of who’s on track to earn a roster spot after going undrafted.

The Tennessee Titans released running back DeMarco Murray in early March and signed Dion Lewis, who broke out for 896 rushing yards on five yards per carry with the nfl authentic jerseys cheap New England Patriots last season. He’ll pair with Derrick Henry to handle the bulk of the rushing attempts for the Titans.

However, Tennessee may have to make room for Akrum Wadley as the third ball-carrier in a committee.

Wadley flashed in his last two years at Iowa as a ball-carrier and receiver out of the backfield, racking up 2,858 yards from scrimmage and 26 total touchdowns in that span nfl jersey wholesale . He also returned nine kicks for 271 yards during his senior year.

The Iowa product’s run best nfl jerseys style and speed already caught the attention of TitansOnline.com’s Jim Wyatt during OTAs.

“It was just a small sample during the open periods for media, but from the get-go, it’s already clear running back Akrum Wadley has a burst. … One thing I noticed: Wadley has a running style that includes a bit of a jump-step, or a skip. It allows him to get into another gear in a hurry.”nfl jersey for cheap

Wadley mirrors Lewis as a potential complement to Henry, who runs with power. Keep an eye on his jump-step during the preseason as a signature style that stands out, especially if he’s breaking off chunk yardage.

Nathan Ake’s Late Equaliser Gives Netherlands Draw vs. Italy in Friendly

Simone Zaza came off the bench to give Italy the lead, but a late Nathan Ake equaliser ensured the Netherlands walked out of Turin with a 1-1 draw on Monday.

The hosts dominated the first half of the international friendly, and Zaza’s toe-poke after the break gave them a deserved lead. Domenico Criscito was sent off for the Azzurri, and with the man advantage, the Dutch equalised in the final minutes.

Here are Monday’s key takeaways.

Does Koeman Have a Plan?

Italy were the superior side before the break by a huge margin, and the Netherlands were the better side in the second half. This friendly between two sides that won’t be going to the World Cup and are in the midst of a difficult period was never about the result or on-pitch dominance.nfl authentic jerseys

Rather, it gave both managers the chance to experiment and see what they have in the squad. For Roberto Mancini, it meant rotating the side compared to the loss against France, with the likes of Mattia Perin and Andrea Belotti coming in. Youngsters Daniele Rugani and Alessio Romagnoli led the way in defence, and the nfl authentic jerseys cheap duo of Jorginho and Bryan Cristante got the chance to play together in midfield.

Ronald Koeman’s approach was a little different. While he did start Matthijs de Ligt, he mostly avoided youth and players with upside in favour of the likes of Ryan Babel and Daley Blind―players who don’t seem to be a part of the team’s long-term future.

It’s a missed opportunity for a team that had little to gain from this friendly in the first place, and a mistake on Koeman’s part.nfl jersey wholesale

Belotti Has Run Out of Credit

Belotti desperately needed a good outing on Monday after watching Mario Balotelliimpress against Saudi Arabia and France. Il Gallo and Super Mario appear to be locked in a battle for the main backup spot at the striker position, behind Lazio Roma’s Ciro Immobile, who had a fantastic season.best nfl jerseys

The Torino man did not have a good season, and at 24 years old, he can’t be considered a prospect any longer. His great scoring exploits last year bought him some credit, but the 2016-17 campaign appears nothing but a distant memory at this point.

Against the Netherlands, nfl jersey for cheap Belotti spent just over an hour running offside and wasting excellent chances:

Chicago Bears: Getting Nagy with It

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Ha! You thought this was going to be about Mitchell Trubisky, didn’t you?

Well, it is. Sort of.

Many are predicting a big second-year jump from Trubisky in 2018, in large part because of the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy.

Nagy preached patience regarding the switch while speaking with JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago, saying that “in Kansas City it took us five years to get to that point that we got to.” He continued: “We’re kind of at a pace right now where we have to at times pull back and say to yourself we’re months into this thing, not years.”

But Nagy also said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen from Trubisky in OTAs.

“Coach (Vic) Fangio and his guys are doing a good job of mixing different coverages and disguising different looks, so for Mitchell to be able to see those looks on tape, he’s building his own library right now within this offense,” Nagy said. “We don’t have to watch Kansas City’s offense anymore. nfl jerseys official We’re building our library now and he’s able to see how it works against our defense right now and try not to make those mistakes and make the correct adjustments.”

There’s a new offensive scheme. And new targets for Trubisky in wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton.

If Trubisky takes to the changes quickly, the Bears could be a tough(er) out in 2018.

To say that John Ross had a disappointing rookie season is an understatement. In three games (including one start), Ross was targeted all of twice. He had zero receptions and one rush for 12 yards.

Not exactly what the Cincinnati Bengals hoped for when they drafted the scouting combine record-holder in the 40-yard dash ninth overall a year ago.nfl best jerseys

Ross missed much of camp after shoulder surgery. By the time the season was over, he had surgery on his other shoulder and battled a knee sprain. Head coach Marvin Lewis groused publicly that Ross had “let the team down.” As Ross told ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, everything that could go wrong in 2017 did.buy nfl jerseys online

“Last year, I was just down, not being able to run full speed, not being able to do everything in the weight room,” Ross said. “Not to have excuses or anything, but I honestly just wasn’t physically authentic nfl jerseys from china or mentally ready for what I got myself into. There was so much going on.”

However, Ross is healthy in 2018 and participating fully in OTAs, and while the team is keeping a tight lid on news from the practice field, some positive tidbits have leaked out regarding the speedy wideout.nfl jersey on sale

Terrell tweeted that Ross has looked good in the practices she had access to, adding the “biggest thing for Ross is he’s getting the reps he needs.”

NBA Finals

1. Houston Rockets vs. 3. Philadelphia 76ers

Boiling a playoff series down to a single stat is reductive.

Let’s do it anyway.

During the second half of the season, when they no longer faced a murderers’ row, the 76ers emerged as one of the league’s best defensive teams. No squad was better at depressing its foes’ shooting percentages, and Philly also forces a fair number of turnovers while cleaning the glass to avoid allowing too many second-chance opportunities. cheap custom nfl jerseys

But the Sixers do have a major weakness that plays right into Houston’s hands:nfl custom jerseys cheap  fouls. 710325ebebaca22e8429447d188f26bc_crop_exact

Only the Memphis Grizzlies (0.333) allow more free throws per field-goal attempt than Philadelphia (0.293), which spells trouble against a team that makes a living at the charity stripe. Led by Harden’s endless parade, the Rockets rank third leaguewide in the offensive version of the same statistic. And they’re going to exploit that advantage, which could only be magnified if Philly’s youngsters get slightly shaken by playing on the Finals stage.cheap customized nfl jerseys

Even if they don’t, that’s bad news for a foul-prone centerpiece such as nike nfl jerseys cheap Joel Embiid. Despite improving substantially upon his rookie efforts, the big man is still averaging 3.9 whistles per 36 minutes.

We’re projecting this as the first opportunity for Simmons and Embiid to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but it won’t be their last. And when they inevitably return to this final battle for the NBA’s ultimate reward, they’ll get to grow from this initial experience.

But they aren’t there quite yet.

Even during a season in which the Eastern Conference features the better-than-ever nfl jerseys cheap nike Raptors and the James-led Cavaliers, it remains the weaker half of the league. The Rockets, on the other hand, are the toast of the Association.
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They’ll prove it when Harden and Paul finally get those pesky playoff monkeys off their backs.

No. 25 to No. 21

25. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (23)

Fournette was a big part of Jacksonville’s run to the AFC Championship Game last year, grinding out 1,040 yards on the ground and rushing for nine scores. However, he also averaged just 3.9 yards a carry as a rookie. While he’s unquestionably a talented tailback, Fournette would need to raise his per-carry average to vault up a list like this one next year.nfl jerseys cheap nike

24. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (23)

It’s unsure at what point in the development of the Watt children that their parents started feeding them quarterbacks. But just like older brother Justin James (his friends call him J.J.), Watt showed an affinity for feasting on signal-callers early as a pro, notching two sacks in his NFL debut on his way to seven total in his inaugural go-round. He’s only just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.

23. Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns (22)hi-res-c8ecb1e02268f4fffdfb205d84fcb48a_crop_exactnfl nike jerseys cheap

At first glance, Garrett’s 31 tackles and seven sacks might not appear overly impressive from a player who was selected first overall in the 2017 draft. But Garrett also missed five games last season—when he was on the field, the burst and explosiveness that helped convince Cleveland to take him was on display. If he can stay healthy, watch out.
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22. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (24)

A year ago at this time—after guiding Dallas to 13 wins and an NFC East title as a rookie—Prescott likely would have ranked inside the top 10 on this list. However, without Ezekiel Elliott to lean on for part of 2017 (Elliott missed six games), cheap nfl jerseys nike Prescott struggled—he threw nine more interceptions than the season before and saw his passer rating fall by 18.3 points. Prescott’s third season could be a make-or-break one.

21. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (24)

Gordon has steadily improved over his three seasons, topping 1,000 total yards back in 2016 and then upping that to 1,105 rushing yards and over 1,500 total yards last season. Gordon also played in all 16 games last year for the first time. If he can back last year’s numbers up, the Bolts have the makings of a sneaky-good team in the AFC West in 2018.

Cincinnati Bengals

A Cincinnati Bengals team coming off back-to-back losing seasons looks rather stale after another quiet March.
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Sure, they upgraded at left tackle by trading for Cordy Glenn, but that acquisition—plus the addition of steady linebacker Preston Brown—isn’t enough. The Bengals still lack game-changing players and are putting too much on the shoulders of quarterback Andy Dalton, wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive linemen Geno Atkins, nfl custom jerseys cheap Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. 164f1f645d6fdff8dc504a390bacf1ea_crop_exact

Dalton has regressed, trouble-making linebacker Vontaze Burfict does more harm than good (and faces another suspension to start the season), the defense lacks teeth altogether (it ranked 30th with just 14 takeaways in 2017) and Glenn’s presence won’t fix a mediocre offensive line.

The Bengals have a better chance at falling to the AFC North basement than slaying the Steelers or Ravens. cheap customized nfl jerseys

In 2017, the Seattle Seahawks were a nine-win team that ranked in the middle of the pack (14th) at Football Outsiders in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and weren’t hit particularly hard by injuries in what was an injury-filled season across the NFL. Remove Richard Sherman, Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson, Paul Richardson and DeShawn Shead from that roster and what do you get?

Trouble, even with a magician at quarterback. cheap nfl custom jerseys

In addition to lacking talent along the offensive line, nfl jerseys cheap nike in the offensive backfield and in the receiving corps, the Seahawks now lack depth on both sides of the ball. Without Russell Wilson, they’d be a bad team. With Wilson, they’re still probably kicking off a miniature rebuild.

Stephen Curry’s Message to Backup Quinn Cook: ‘You Better Not Hesitate’

It’s impossible to fill the shoes of a two-time MVP. Especially one who is the entire system of his team.

But with Stephen Curry potentially out through the first round of the NBA playoffs, Quinn Cook will have to lead the ailing Golden State Warriors in his absence.

For Cook, who has played 24 games with the Warriors this season, it’s all about finding the confidence to play his game. That’s exactly what the Warriors need from him during their bizarre injury pileup cheap custom nfl jerseys .

“That’s the biggest thing for me is the coaches, all the vets are telling me to do that,” Cook said of having the confidence to play his style. “When it’s your first year on the team and you’ve had some struggles at times, certain guys, certain coaches [would be like], ‘Maybe he can’t do it at this level’ or would tell me to pass the ball a little bit more.cheap customized nfl jerseys “9bd875ef7ae2ea40026cb37048aa081b_crop_north

Cook doesn’t need that. When the rest of the starting lineup is comprised of Nick Young, Patrick McCaw, JaVale McGee and Kevon Looney—as it was during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Utah Jazz—he needs to be the offense. He’s done just that recently, as he’s averaged 20.6 points, 5.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds over the Warriors’ last five games.

“I’m telling you, Steve [Kerr], every player on my team: Dot [Livingston], Kevin [Durant], Steph [Curry], Draymond [Green], all of them were telling me to keep shooting. If you hesitate, they would get mad cheap nfl custom jerseys at you. So the fact that they kept their nike nfl jerseys cheap confidence in me has really been the reason I’ve been able to have some high-scoring games. It’s because they really believed in my ability.”

This isn’t just stat-stuffing, daily fantasy numbers. The Warriors still need Cook to be a contributor when Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green return. And so long as Curry remains sidelined, Cook could be a difference-maker in the first round of the playoffs, too.

To keep producing the way the Warriors need him to, Cook has to keep his confidence up. That’s a team effort in and of itself.nfl jerseys cheap nike

“I remember Steph telling me, ‘I don’t care if you go 0-of-25. That 26th shot, you better not hesitate.’ To hear that from a guy like that, it does a lot for your confidence. It really shows you I can stop putting pressure on myself and really play my game.”

Jordy Nelson, Raiders Agree to 2-Year, $15 Million Contract

James Jones of NFL Network reported that the deal is for two years and $15 million with $13 million guaranteed.

Per Tafur, the Raiders are also releasing nfl custom jerseys cheap veteran wideout Michael Crabtree.customized nfl jerseys

Nelson spent the first 10 seasons of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, winning a Super Bowl in 2010 and reaching the Pro Bowl in 2014. He registered 85 or more receptions three times, 1,200 receiving yards four times and at least seven touchdown receptions five times.

Nelson struggled with Rodgers injured during the 2017 season, however, catching just 53 passes for 482 yards and six scores. With the emergence of Davante Adams as a star on the outside and the reported signing of tight end Jimmy Graham, Nelson became expendable in Green Bay.  hi-res-01e111f1b40bab70f216a942474d768c_crop_north

At 32, it’s fair to question whether Nelson’s best football is behind him. On the other hand, he’s only one season removed from producing 97 catches, 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. Oakland is banking on that version of Nelson to return and provide a boost in the 2018 season.

Nelson’s arrival in Oakland means quarterback Derek Carr cheap customized nfl jerseys will still have one of the better wideout combinations in the NFL with Amari Cooper the other half of that dynamic duo.

The Raiders were 16th in both passing yards (3,631) and passing touchdowns (23) in 2017, seeing those numbers drop significantly from 13th (4,051 yards) and eighth (29 touchdowns), respectively, in 2016. As the Raiders seek a return to the cheap nfl custom jerseys postseason after missing out in 2017, Carr and new head coach Jon Gruden will hope Nelson provides a spark for the team’s offense. nike nfl jerseys cheap