Women's football in Iran
Women's football in Iran is very popular. Football has been a part of life for Iranians for many decades now and is played in schools, alleys, streets and football clubs nationwide. Women in Iran are increasingly inclined to play football, and with this increasing popularity it is only a matter of time before a more secure infrastructure develops. The Iran women's national football team competes internationally.
|Women's football in Iran|
|Governing body||Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran|
|National team(s)||Women's national team|
Women are not allowed to attend men's football matches. On 9 November 2018 Fatma Samoura, Secretary General of International Federation of Football Association FIFA said she would ask Iranian government to end ban on women’s entry to sport stadiums.
Women's football in Iran started in 1970. Women had the personal ambition of participating in male football competitions in alleys and streets, so they took part in some men's football games. During that time, when numerous trainers participated in the top grade of FIFA's training courses in Japan, they observed the Japan women's national football team's games against female teams from Korea, Singapore and India. That was the stimulus to the administrators of women’s football in Iran. Since 1970 serious measures were made in order to reach appropriate standards.
Taj was the first club to train women. Thereafter, women took part first in football training and then in football teams such as Taj, Deyhim, Persepolis FC, Oghab FC and Khasram. By organizing different competitions between those teams, the best players were selected and placed in the first Iranian women's national team. This team was composed of former volleyball players, basketball players and athletes aged from 12 to 18. They started to train more seriously as sport magazine published the news of their progress, then gradually a huge number of female fans arose to support the team. With the help of educational institutions across the country, talented youngsters were scouted.
As time went on, teams were selected, and eventually in 1971 a competition was organised by a women's sport magazine and the travel company Scandinavian Airlines System (S.A.S) under the supervision of the Football Federation, for that occasion the Italy women's national football team was invited to Iran and had two games against Taj and a team called Tehran in the Amjadieh stadium. Women's football continued to grow until the Iranian revolution in 1979.
In 1993, a rebound was made for women's football in Iran, in the shape of futsal, a form of indoor football, started by Alzahra University. At first it faced the refusal by the sport's administration, however because of the passion shown by the students towards football, the university changed the law and the first unofficial female competition was organized since the Iranian revolution. In this competition 10 teams participated, most of them belong to Alzahra University and the rest were from other national universities. Women's football activity continued to grow until finally, in 1997 the physical education organization formed a women's futsal committee and since then officially sport clubs have begun to encourage women's futsal teams in Iran.
Since 2001, the first national female students' competition was officially organised under the supervision of the ministry of education, research and technology in Alzahra University. This competition was made by 12 teams from different universities.
In 2004, subsequent efforts were not made to provide facilities for women. Occasionally female teams train with the hijab in stadiums in small groups on good quality pitches. An attempt has also been made to allow women into stadiums at the same time as men. To date, women football players are unable to train on pitches of good quality. Nowadays only indoor facilities are accessible to women footballers. Until 2005 many competitions have been organized with the participation of foreign teams.
The Kowsar Women Football league is the primary women's football league in Iran.
In 2015 for the first time in Iranian women's football history a national team qualified for the top continental competition. The U20 and the U17 team's qualified for the Asian Championships in China for their respective age groups.
The football revolution (or soccer revolution) refers to the events in Iran which began 1997 in the context of football in that country. The idea of a "football revolution" is that the game itself can be used as a part of the secularization of Iran and frame women's rights movements in the country.
While women's football in Iran has existed since 1970, female players are required to adhere to a strict dress code. Since the 1979 revolution and the establishment of the Islamic republic, women have had only restricted and segregated access to public places, and they have specifically been banned from attending men's sporting events.
The 'soccer revolution'
When the Iranian football team narrowly defeated Australia in the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification on November 29, 1997, millions of Iranians celebrated the victory by dancing and singing in the streets, despite multiple government warnings against any secular-type celebrations. The most notable event on that day was that women breached the police barrier and entered the stadium, from which they were banned. Some women even took off their veils. There was open socialization between men and women in the streets. The Western press saw these events as a message to Islamic fundamentalists in Iran.
When subsequently Iran defeated the United States 2-1 during the actual 1998 FIFA World Cup on June 21, 1998, similar celebrations continued several days, with some women taking off veils and mingling with men, until Iran's 2-0 defeat by Germany.
Trying to open up stadiums to women to watch football was considered a form of social change. The idea was that football or soccer presented an alternative to Islamism through secular nationalism. Journalist Franklin Foer compared the football revolution with the Boston Tea Party. Iranians themselves see football as a way to "ease diplomatic tension" or as a way to create social change within the country.
Since then Iranian women's rights activists started fighting for the right to enter stadiums, often violently breaking into them. A film by Jafar Panahi, Offside (2006), is about a group of young women who dress as boys in order to watch football at a stadium.
In April 2006 president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lifted the ban on women entering stadiums despite the objections of conservatives, commenting that women and families help bring morality and chastity to public venues. However, the ban was reinstated by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on May 8, 2006.
Further restrictions were enacted that enshrined the restrictions for international and national competitions. In December 2007 the vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee, Abdolreza Savar, issued a memorandum to all sporting federations about the "proper behavior of male and female athletes" and that "severe punishment will be meted out to those who do not follow Islamic rules during sporting competitions" both local and abroad. Men are not allowed to train or coach women. Iran's female volleyball team was once considered the best in Asia, but due to the lack of female coaches it has been prevented from international competition.
Iranian women are allowed to compete in sports that require removal of the hijab, but only in arenas that are all female. They are banned from public events if spectators include unrelated men. Thus, of the 53 Iranian athletes in the Beijing Olympics, there were only three women: Sara Khoshjamal Fekri (taekwondo), Najmeh Abtin (shooting) and Homa Hosseini (rowing).
Grassroots women's football organizations continue to flourish in Iran.
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