Iran, not considering the present situation the country is in, is one of the most beautiful and culturally advanced nations in the world. The remains of the Persian Civilization continue to wow even now. The Iranian people have been facing hardships for what seems like ages, but they still greet you with a smile and make sure that you feel honoured as their guest. It is this intriguing culture of the country that convinced me to embark on a trip there, and it was by chance that I could watch a women’s football match while in Tehran – the experience was fascinating.
Women’s football in Iran – the early years
Before I narrate more of my experience, let us look at some interesting stats…
- Women’s football started in Iran in 1970, before the Khomeini regime took over.
- Taj was the first club that trained Iranian women footballers.
- Women’s football was allowed in clubs like Taj, Persepolis, Deyhim and Oghab.
- The growth of women’s football in Iran continued until the Iranian Revolution happened in 1979, and this is when football for women completely stopped.
Women’s football in Iran revived in 2005, and the team immediately reached second place in the 2005 West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship, held in Amman in Jordan. The team achieved second place in the same competition in 2007 and 2011.
Due to the strong Islamic regime in Iran, women were (and still are) only allowed to play football wearing hijabs. Can you imagine how difficult this might be? A hijab covers a woman from head to toe and visibility, while it is not a challenge overall, is a huge challenge when someone has to play football – every player is partially blinded and it is almost impossible to see all the tackles coming in. Never mind trying to analyse the game in terms of space and possession! FIFA had, for a brief period, banned the Iranian women’s football team in 2011. Thankfully, this badn has been lifted.
There were other controversies too – it was twice alleged (as recent as 2015) that some players in the Iranian women’s football team were actually men. The allegations were ultimately rejected because FIFA decided that there was no scientific basis to these allegations.
My trip to Iran was sponsored by Saudicasinos.com, because my initial purpose was to research western influences such as traditional gambling and sports betting on this seemingly ultra-orthodox country. As I arrived, a dear Iranian friend of mine told me about the condition of women’s football in Iran and cajoled me to watch a local match. As I watched the match, I went through several emotions. I consider the idea of someone being forced to play football in a hijab to be totally absurd. I was enraged at the authorities who have created so many obstacles for women who want simply to come out of their homes and to establish their identities; and I was full of admiration for these brave women who battle this extremely male-dominated society to try to show the world that they belong within it. Forget about the quality of the game – as a westerner, you can never imagine how difficult it is for a woman footballer in what was, once upon a time, one of the most advanced nations in the world.
Being a woman footballer in Iran
At the end of the game, my friend allowed me to talk to a couple of the footballers and he played the role of interpreter. The discussion was short, but it opened my eyes. While the players don’t mind the Sharia laws of the country, they feel that women should be given more empowerment in life, and this includes letting them enjoy what life has in store for them – football, in this case.
Being a woman footballer in Iran is filled with challenges. Most of the males in the country don’t care at all about women playing football (even in hijabs!) – Women footballers have to fight uphill battles to continue to play. For many men, a woman’s place is inside the house – cooking, cleaning and giving birth. Can you imagine saying this to the women in your family? You would be banished!
As it is, the continuing political struggles in Iran make it difficult for women to think beyond a servitor existence, and women’s football doesn’t even feature in the list of priorities. This is why we should salute these brave women who continue to take on the challenges head-on by playing football.
Thanks to some of the Iranian football clubs, women’s football continues to exist in Iran. And with the changing times, we may soon see women in Iran competing with the best in world football. That will be a blast for sure!
Iran & Australia girls soccer team – Aryamehr Stadium – Parstimes
Taj Girls Soccer Team – Parstimes
Guest Author Bio
Ashraf Marwan is a sports fanatic – he follows every sport possible. Ashraf lives in Egypt and football comes to him naturally. He is a passionate fan of the game and follows it on a global basis. Ashraf believes that sport has a big role to play in human culture, and in many of his writings he never forgets to bring in this angle of connection between sports and life.
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