Iranians bring love of American football to Tehran

Tue Oct 7, 2008 8:36pm EDT
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By Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN (Reuters Life!) - The oval-shaped ball spins high through the night air toward a player streaking toward the far end of the field.

"Oh my God! That's a sweet-looking catch," the quarterback whose thrown the ball shouts in American-accented English as the receiver jumps and grabs it with one hand.

A common scene in any U.S. town, perhaps.

But this is Tehran, capital of a country which President George W. Bush once referred to as part of an "axis of evil," and the American football enthusiasts are Iranians.

"All of us share a love for American football," said Payam Kashani as he stood watching his friends play on a cool October evening beneath floodlights at Tehran's Shahid Keshvari stadium.

"We see it as a sport, not an American sport," he said. "The whole point is for us to have fun."

So far it is on a modest scale, with only enough participants this evening to take up half a field normally used for soccer, the Islamic Republic's most popular team sport.

Payam's brother J.J., a nickname he has kept from his school years in Kansas City in the late 1980s, said most of them became fans while studying in the United States.   Continued...

<p>Amirhossein Sahiholnasab (R) tries to evade a tackle during the Tehran Titans flag football game at Tehran's Shahid Keshvari stadium October 6, 2008. REUTERS/Caren Firouz</p>