Iran player breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Masoud Shojaei (Reuters)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Iran player breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

TEHRAN, Iran: One of two Iranian footballers threatened with a lifetime ban after playing against an Israeli club broke his silence on Friday, saying he had no intention of causing offense.
“My country has always been and will be my priority,” wrote midfielder Masoud Shojaei on his Instagram page.
“I have always tried to work wholeheartedly to be a suitable representative for the country.”
It came a week after news he and teammate Hajji Safi had been banned for life from the national team for playing in a Europa League qualifier with their Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The Iranian government does not recognize Israel and bars its sportsmen from participating against Israelis in any event, including at the Olympics.
Iran appeared to row back the ban after a huge outcry from football fans on social media and the launch of an investigation by FIFA, which has rules against political interference in national teams.
The ISNA news agency reported that the Iran Football Federation had denied the ban in a letter to FIFA on August 13.
That was despite a statement from Deputy Sports Minister Mohammad Reza Davarzani, saying “Shojaei and Hajji Safi have no place in Iran’s national football team any more because they crossed the country’s red line.”
In his Instagram post, Shojaei appeared to respond to critics who said his appearance against an Israeli team had “disrespected” Iranian martyrs.
“I am the child of war and come from a town of sacrifice and resistance,” he said, referring to the brutal eight-year conflict against Iraq in the 1980s.
“I well understand the status of those dear ones who gave everything to defend us and God forbid, I will never try to abuse the name, image and sacrifice of these angels,” he wrote.


National team coach Carlos Queiroz said this week that he was delaying naming his squad for the next international fixtures until August 27, with local media speculating he would use the extra time to talk the federation out of banning the players.
Iran face 2018 World Cup qualifiers against South Korea on August 31 and Syria on September 5, although Quieroz’s team have already booked their ticket to Russia.
Shojaei and Safi had refused to play in the away leg against Maccabi in Israel, but took part in the second leg in Greece on August 4. It did not help Panionios, who lost 1-0 to exit the competition 2-0 on aggregate.
Current and former top players, including Ali Karimi and Mehdi Taremi, expressed support for their colleagues, saying they had no choice but to play the game.
But Iran Football Federation vice president Ali Kafashian told the Mizan Online website that they shouldn’t have played “even if their contracts would have been terminated.”
Shoejaei had already risked the ire of conservatives in June when he called on the newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani to lift the ban on women spectators in Iranian stadiums.
Iran won six of their first eight World Cup qualification group matches to secure a at Russia 2018.
But if found guilty by FIFA of government interference, they could be barred from taking part.
Shojaei played 70 minutes in the last match, a 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan in June, while Safi remained on the bench.


Green triple-double fuels Warriors’ comeback win

Updated 19 May 2019
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Green triple-double fuels Warriors’ comeback win

  • The Golden State Warriors rallied for a 110-99 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland
  • The two-time defending champion Warriors trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter

LOS ANGELES: Draymond Green exploded for a seventh career playoff triple-double Saturday as the Golden State Warriors rallied for a 110-99 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland and a 3-0 lead in the NBA Western Conference finals.
The two-time defending champion Warriors trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter, but with Green driving them they produced another dominant third period to seize control of the contest and the series.
No team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win an NBA playoff series. The Trail Blazers will try to fend off elimination when they host game four on Monday.
Green scored 20 points with 13 rebounds and 12 assists, keeping the Warriors afloat in the first half before superstar Stephen Curry came alive with 21 of his 36 points after the interval.
“There aren’t many guys in the game that can (affect both ends of the floor),” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Green beforehand. “Draymond can do both.”
His intensity was on display on both ends of the court, and on the sidelines as he exhorted teammates to keep pushing.
Klay Thompson added 19 points for the Warriors, who were again without injured star Kevin Durant.
“All my teammates, my coaches have been telling me, ‘Draymond, get to the hole, be aggressive,’” Green said of his mindset.
“We’ve got guys out there, Steph, Klay and those guys who draw a lot of attention, so it’s on me to do my job and come through for those guys.”
CJ McCollum led Portland with 23 points. Damian Lillard, relentlessly double-teamed by the Warriors, added 19 points.
Center Meyers Leonard, making just his third start of the season, finished with 16 points.
Leonard made the most of his opportunity early, connecting on five of seven shots from the field in the first half on the way to 13 points.
The Trail Blazers, energized in front of a rowdy home crowd at the Moda Center, quickly built a 10-point lead before the Warriors trimmed it to two — 29-27 — at the end of the first quarter.
But the Blazers kept the pressure on, stretching the lead to 18 in the second quarter.
A steal by Lillard produced a thunderous dunk from Leonard, then Portland’s Seth Curry stole the ball from his superstar brother Stephen and raced for a three-pointer that made it 60-42 with 2:28 remaining in the first half.
Portland took a 66-53 lead into the locker room, but the Warriors responded with a monster third quarter, using a 22-6 scoring run to take their first lead of the game, 77-76 on a layup by Kevin Looney — assisted by Green.
Golden State out-scored Portland 29-13 in the quarter to lead by three heading into the final frame.
The Warriors pushed the lead to 11 with 4:51 remaining and the Trail Blazers wouldn’t get the deficit below eight from there.