US Basketballers play in Iran's 1st Div. League!

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US Basketballers play in Iran's 1st Div. League!

Postby IPC » Fri May 26, 2006 6:51 pm

US Basketballers play in Iran's 1st Division League!

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Great Satan plays for Islamic Republic!
May 26th, 2006

Did you know, at the time, there are 20 and adding American basketball players playing for Iran's First Division League? These players are not good enough to play in NBA but good enough to play in Iranian League; Morley, they have revived the Iranian League, made it popular and now Iranian Basketball fans, ticket buyers and enthusiasts have been doubled!

US players in Iran, make between $4,000 to $30,000 a month which is great for second rate basketball players who could not even make it in US NBA!

What matters is despite shouts of "Death to America" in the streets, Iranian fans love American players and the game surely has become much more fun and popular in Iran. Go to a 1st division basketball game in Iran and you can't miss noticing that today in Iran, basketball is Hot! American players have raised the professional level of the game. Matches are now exciting!

In Iran, Basketball is no match for Soccer (Football) or Wrestling, but thanks to American players, now basketball is Hot!

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Postby IPC » Fri May 26, 2006 6:55 pm

Basketball in the 'axis of evil'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4445030.stm
By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Image
American basketball players are popular with Iranian fans


Insults bounce back and forth between Iran and the United States on an almost daily basis but on the basketball court it is a different story.

A growing number of Americans are now plying their trade in the Iranian basketball league.

Saba Battery - a local Iranian basketball team - is having its first practice session in a gym in Tehran with the new player from America.

He is a staggering 217cm (7ft 2in) tall - a giant by Iranian standards.

"We both have different cultures, different religious so if we respect that we will get along very fine," Garth Joseph says.

He regards himself as an ambassador for his country which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the revolution.

"I hope they start relations. I was surprised to see we don't have an embassy here or Iran one in America; I thought what's going on," says Garth.

'Basketball is universal'

The US embassy siege and the taking of American diplomats in 1979 is clearly ancient history for these young sportsmen.

Image
On the streets they may shout "Death to America",
but on the court they cheer for American basketball players


Iran is a country whose first love is football, but those who follow basketball happily accept the American players.

They have even been warmly welcomed on teams sponsored by the Iranian Ministry of Defense.

"Basketball is universal - so there's no colour, no race; we just bond - from day one when I came here the team just took me in and we just took off," says veteran Andre Pitts, who also plays for Saba Battery.

"For us as players we don't ask someone where he is from. It's more, 'I want to beat you and you want to beat me so let's go'," he adds.

The only problem Andre has is being the center of attention. An African-American in Iran is a novelty.

Image
When Pegah Hamadan took on Saba Battery four Americans played

"At first everybody stared - that was the hardest thing for me to get used to," he says.

"You go to eat in places, put some food in your mouth and look up and there's everyone staring at you, but I've got used to it now."

Andre Pitt has been here so long he is beginning to like Persian food - he says his favourite dish is chicken rice.

For many players it is a major culture shock.

Winning combination

Jamaal from Indiana, Kansas, now lives in the provincial Iranian town of Hamadan, where he says the women are mostly dressed in black cloaks and there is nothing to do except play basketball for the local team.

Image
Players have become unofficial ambassadors for the US

"This place is nice. It keeps you safe and grounded; some places you go out and get into trouble but there's none of that here," he jokes.

When Pegah Hamadan play Saba Battery there are two Americans on each team.

The Iranian players kiss each other on both cheeks when they meet, the Americans do a high-five.

Diehard fans play drums and trumpets and shout "Ya Ali" - invoking the name of one of the twelve Shia imams - for the slam dunk.

"When I first got here I think it was only me and two other Americans. Now we have almost 20 I believe," says Waitari Marsh.

He thinks the coaches and the players are improving rapidly.

On the streets they may shout "Death to America", but on the court they cheer for American basketball players.

Iran has always said it has a problem with the American government, not with its people, and this is an example of that.
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Postby IPC » Fri May 26, 2006 6:56 pm

American basketball players in Iran shoot hoops, win fans
http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/ne ... 520627.htm
IRAN
American basketball players in Iran shoot hoops, win fans

Nuclear politics aside, American basketball players in Iran's top league are loved by fans.

BY HANNAH ALLAMKnight Ridder News Service TEHRAN, Iran - The closest thing to an American ambassador in Iran is a 7-foot-2 giant who speaks with a Caribbean lilt and sheepishly admits that he listens to Conway Twitty.

Garth Joseph, a New Yorker who was born on the island of Dominica, is by far the most recognizable player in Iran's national basketball league. On the court, he towers over opponents as a fearsome star who's known for his rebounds. On the sidelines, he melts into smiles and hugs for his awestruck young fans.

Local sportswriters dubbed him ''The Ambassador,'' an apt name for a person who's learning how to navigate politics, sports and religion in the Islamic Republic.

''When you play in different countries, you lose your nationality, your color, your race,'' Joseph said one day recently as he listened to reggae in his Tehran apartment. ``You're just a basketball star. It lets you talk to people about your values and your culture without them attacking you right away.''

This year, about 20 Americans -- a record number, even as international tensions mount over Iran's nuclear program -- dribbled, dunked and danced before cheering Iranian fans, attracted by some of the best salaries outside the National Basketball Association.

LAND OF PLENTY

Former NBA players such as Joseph, who briefly played for the Denver Nuggets and the Toronto Raptors during the 2000-01 season, can command more than $20,000 a month here, local sports officials said.

Sixteen teams make up the Super League, Iran's version of the NBA. Wealthy corporations and government ministries sponsor the teams; two of the most successful belong to the Defense Ministry. Each team is allowed two foreign players, and coaches prefer Americans.

''They're tall and big and can catch all the rebounds and make all the shots. They rescue the teams,'' said Mahin Gorgi, an Iranian journalist who covers basketball for the local sports paper Goal.

Gorgi said the American players delight Iranian fans with their tattoos, victory dances and shouts of ''Yeah, baby!'' whenever they score.

Gorgi, who has become friends with several of the players she covers, said she didn't have the heart to translate for her American pals when the soldier-dominated crowd at one recent game broke into chants warning the United States: ``Nuclear energy is our absolute right!''

SECRET LIFESTYLE

Life in Iran can be jarring for young American athletes. There are no bars or nightclubs, and guards accompany teams even on away games to make sure that players don't drink or carouse. The restrictions lead ''imported'' players to create their own vibrant underworld, with bootleggers knocking on the door to deliver contraband such as alcohol and bacon.

John Carter, who plays for the Defense Ministry's Sanam team, spends his time off holed up in a Tehran apartment stocked with Absolut vodka and Phillies Blunt cigars.

'Welcome to `Little America,' '' said Carter, a 32-year-old Oklahoman who played for Iowa in college, as he ushered a guest into his apartment. ``Salaam, yo, salaam!''

After Joseph's team won the league championship last month, two young women shyly waited farther back for their chance to congratulate Joseph and a Texan teammate named Andre Pitts. Iman Farzin and Shabna Rahami, both 19, lingered around the exit, hoping to greet the American stars on their way out.

''Our politics and our support for them are separate,'' Farzin said.

``Iranian people like American people.''
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Postby IPC » Fri May 26, 2006 6:59 pm

U.S. basketball players become stars in Iran's professional league
Players' focus is on the game, but sometimes politics intrude.

By Hannah Allam
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Monday, May 08, 2006

TEHRAN, Iran — The closest thing to an American ambassador in Iran is a 7-foot-2-inch giant who speaks with a Caribbean lilt and sheepishly admits that he listens to Conway Twitty.

Garth Joseph, a New Yorker who was born on the island of Dominica, is by far the most recognizable player in Iran's national basketball league. On the court, he towers over opponents as a fearsome star who's known for his rebounds. On the sidelines, he melts into smiles and hugs for his awe-struck young fans.

Hannah Allam
KNIGHT-RIDDER/TRIBUNE Garth Joseph, a Dominica-born New Yorker, is among about 20 Americans who play in the Iranian league. Fans, both young and old, flock to the towering players for autographs or photos.

Local sportswriters dub him "The Ambassador," an apt name for a person who's learning how to navigate politics, sports and religion in the Islamic republic.

"When you play in different countries, you lose your nationality, your color, your race," Joseph said. "You're just a basketball star. It lets you talk to people about your values and your culture without them attacking you right away."

This year, about 20 Americans — a record number, even as international tensions mount over Iran's nuclear program — dribbled, dunked and danced before cheering Iranian fans, attracted by some of the best salaries outside the National Basketball Association.

Former NBA players such as Joseph, who briefly played for the Denver Nuggets and the Toronto Raptors during the 2000-01 season, can command more than $20,000 a month here, local sports officials said, though the average player starts at closer to $7,000, far below the NBA rookie minimum of just under $400,000 a year — about $33,000 a month.

The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic ties for nearly 30 years, and the players are perhaps the only Americans many Iranians will ever encounter, a reality that brings them more responsibility than just scoring. Joseph, who arrived in October, said he tried to dispel stereotypes about the United States among his Iranian teammates while reassuring his worried wife and children in New York that Iranians weren't all murderous hostage-takers.

"I have political opinions like everybody else, but I'm not over here fighting a political war. I don't pick a side," Joseph said. "We all have our problems, even in America. You come to realize that nobody's totally free, not even in a democracy."

Sixteen teams make up the Super League, Iran's version of the NBA. Wealthy corporations and government ministries sponsor the teams; two of the most successful belong to the Defense Ministry. Each team is allowed two foreign players, and coaches prefer Americans.

"They're tall and big and can catch all the rebounds and make all the shots. They rescue the teams," said Mahin Gorgi, an Iranian journalist who covers basketball for Goal, a local sports paper.

Joseph plays for the Defense Ministry's Saba Battery team, along with another American, Andre Pitts of Seguin, who once played for Huston-Tillotson University.

Gorgi said the American players delight Iranian fans with their tattoos, victory dances and shouts of "Yeah, baby!" whenever they score.

Yet even with those flourishes, attendance lags far behind that for soccer and wrestling. When the military-sponsored basketball teams play, commanders sometimes order soldiers to fill the empty seats.

Gorgi, who's become friends with several of the players she covers, said she didn't have the heart to translate for her American pals when the soldier-dominated crowd at one recent game broke into chants warning the United States: "Nuclear energy is our absolute right!"

Life in Iran can be jarring for young American athletes. There are no bars or nightclubs, and guards accompany teams to make sure that players don't drink or carouse. The restrictions lead "imported" players to create their own vibrant underworld, which recalls Prohibition days in the United States, with bootleggers knocking on the door to deliver contraband such as alcohol and bacon.

Joseph says he spends his free time reading Persian history and trying to find coconuts, avocados and other tropical ingredients for the island cooking of his childhood. He tries to take in historical sights.

But not all players share his tastes.

John Carter, who plays for the Defense Ministry's Sanam team, spends his time off holed up in a Tehran apartment stocked with Absolut vodka and Phillies Blunt cigars. A tangle of wires leads to his Xbox video-game set, an Internet connection and an iPod that usually bumps Southern hip-hop. Hot pizza is just a phone call away, from Iranian delivery guys who scream "Johnny!" each time he calls.

"Welcome to 'Little America,' " Carter, a 32-year-old Oklahoman who played for Iowa in college, said as he ushered a guest into his apartment. "Salaam, yo, salaam!"

Carter, who never played in the NBA, finds his way around Tehran by using colorful anti-American murals as landmarks. One day, he and his roommate, a player from North Carolina, tried to remember the location of a shopping center.

"The one by that big drawing," Carter began.

"With the bullets coming out of the American flag?" the roommate asked.

"No, the other one," Carter said.

"The one with the Statue of Liberty with, like, a skeleton face?"

"Not that one, either."

Carter is no stranger to the Islamic world: He's also played in Syria and Saudi Arabia. His girlfriend is of Lebanese descent, and he owns a home in a predominantly Arab suburb of Detroit. Still, when his agent floated the idea of playing in Iran, his first thought was "Hell, no."

Then he heard the salary, and within weeks he was pounding the parquet in Tehran.

He and other players sometimes are chided for dancing in public or chatting up Iranian women, but for the most part, the country's notorious security apparatus doesn't hassle them. One time, however, Carter was locked out of his house. A 6-foot-9 African American man sitting on a Tehran doorstep isn't exactly inconspicuous, so it took just minutes for the authorities to show up.

An officer swung open the door to a police car and ordered Carter inside. He refused and slammed the door shut. Again, the officer tried to force Carter into the car and, again, the player refused. Just as things were getting ugly, the officer made a move toward Carter.

"He pulled my hat back and realized who I was," Carter said. "He was, like 'Johnny! Johnny Car-ter. Johnny Car-ter! OK, OK, everything is OK.' "
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Postby IPC » Fri May 26, 2006 7:03 pm

On the parquet, 'Great Satan' plays for 'Axis of Evil'
http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1215/p01s03-wome.html

On the parquet, 'Great Satan' plays for 'Axis of Evil'
By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Image
IN IRAN'S LEAGUE: American basketball players
Andre Pitts (left) and Garth Joseph.


TEHRAN, IRAN – During a time out, the Iranian basketball team huddles on the sidelines. Amid the rising heat and scent of hard exertion, the Iranian coach tells the squad in English that he wants 30 points in the fourth quarter.

But from within the sweating cluster an excited American voice cuts in: "Let's win!" urges Texan Andre Pitts, who would lead the team to victory with 26 points. "Let's just win!"

In the quest to build a professional basketball league and bolster Iranian hoop skills, teams in the Islamic republic are paying top dollar ($15,000 a month or more) to lure players away from Europe and America, which is still sometimes called the "Great Satan." In the past two years, the number of Americans playing on parquet floors in the "Axis of Evil" has jumped from three to at least 18 in the 16-team league.

Along the way, something else has happened. The American players have become ambassadors of sorts, for both countries.

"People are people; and basketball people in America and Iran are the same," says Mr. Pitts, who is from Seguin, Texas. In the past seven years, he's played for teams in Syria, Lebanon, and now in Iran. "They really look after us a lot. My teammates are really good to me - in two years I have never had a problem. I get invited to their homes all the time."

Pitts plays for Saba Battery, which, ironically, is the team fielded by Iran's defense ministry. The other American on the team is Garth Joseph, a dual US-Dominican Republic citizen.

Together, the pair of talented foreigners shot 43 points on Sunday, well over half of those in Saba's nationally televised 77-71 defeat of team Peykan.

"We are sportsmen, not political men, and sport is a common language between all humans in the world," says Saeed Fathi, head coach of Peykan, which was the first team to import American talent, four years ago. "It's a good language," he adds.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, anti-American slogans have been a fixture of government-organized events. And Pitts's Iranian teammates say he was somewhat anxious about this when he arrived. But players of both nationalities say now that the first thing to fall away are the prejudices and misconceptions fostered by governments and the media.

"We clicked from Day One," says Pitts, who sports two diamond ear studs and headphones around his neck after a recent practice.

Living in Iran has taken some getting used to, however. Alcohol is forbidden, and there are no nightclubs. Players say that their American families worry - at least at the start - about their sons or brothers working in a country lead by a clerical regime that is vilified by Washington.

"I tell my family: 'I keep going [to Iran], so it can't be too bad,' " says Pitts, who is often busy countering misperceptions among friends and relatives when he returns home to Texas for vacation.

Americans "think all Iranians hate America, or have a negative attitude to the US," he adds. "It's sad, because the news shows all the bad things [about Iran] but never the good things. It's wrong, but all states are the same: There are some bad things, and some good."

America is nice, but ...

Pitts also dispenses advice to young Iranians who dream of traveling to America. "I tell them: 'America is nice, but it is not like you think it is,' " he says. "If you don't have an education behind you, it is still a struggle. You can get a drink, but not all life is like that."

Image
IMPORTS: American Garth Joseph (No. 16)
poses with a fan after the game.
SCOTT PETERSON/GETTY IMAGES


In Iran, the novelty of having tattooed Americans toeing Iranian free-throw lines has yet to wear off. Before the game, some of the handful of spectators ask Mr. Joseph - a barrel-chested 7 ft. 2 in. man - to pose for photos with children.

State TV cameramen and spectators laugh every time the towering Joseph snatches a rebound and consolidates control of the ball with his tongue out and a growl.

Each Iranian team can put up to two foreigners on the court. But the Iranian game and the 'imported' player dynamic is not for everyone. Chris Herren, from Fall River, Mass., who was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1999, and then played for the Boston Celtics the next year, signed an agreement a month ago to play for Peykan, with a two-month trial period.

But the outside shooter drafted to score from beyond the 3-point line has recently been dogged by a family crisis in the US, injuries, and illness. During his second outing with Peykan on Sunday, he didn't score a point.

"If he can't play this game, he must go home," Mr. Fathi said after one time out, in which TV cameras caught a flash of disagreement between player and coach.

Mr. Herren left the bench before the rest of the team, could not be reached for comment afterwards, and was not at practice the next day. Fathi says the trial period is over, and Herren won't be playing in Iran.

While the Americans are here to score points and raise the caliber of Iranian play, Fathi admits that their presence also skews the results.

For example, he figures his Peykan team, loaded with six members of Iran's national team, would have beat Saba Battery Sunday by 20 points if Pitts and Joseph were not playing.

But Pitts notes that Iranian basketball is good, and getting better. "Athletic-wise, [Iranians] are very tough. The game is more physical here - it's a man's league," says Pitts. "Their skill level is rising - eventually they will be the best [in the Mideast]."

A ban on tattoos

While most here appreciate the American example, there are some aspects of the NBA that Iranian officials would prefer not to import.

Last month, the Iranian Basketball Federation banned its players from having tattoos, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported. "It has been noticed recently that some basketball players are copying foreign players and having themselves tattooed ... which is against the morals [of the Islamic republic] and unacceptable," the federation said. It called for players who have "committed such an act" to take rapid measures to "make them disappear so to avoid firmer measures" against them.

In dutiful compliance, during Sunday's game the Iranian Peykan center used strips of athletic tape to cover a large tattoo on his shoulder.
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