Beginners who dare to dream, a story of Iranian football | Soccer News
Of the 11 foreign teams present at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, one name aroused immediate curiosity. Iran. Beginners. Stories heard around football and Iranian women more recently were about their battle to watch men’s matches live. Then there was the tragedy of “Blue Girl” Sahar Khodayari, the Esteghlal fan who committed suicide while on trial for trying to enter a stadium disguised as a man.
Who are these Iranian women who really dare to play football? How had they blindsided everyone by qualifying for Asia’s biggest women’s competition on their fourth attempt? In October, Iran knocked out favorite Jordan on penalties to travel to India. There’s a video on YouTube of the highlights of the women – dressed in head-to-toe white, hijabs, long-sleeved shirts and shorts over tights – attacking, defending, sprinting and taking on the Jordanians.
Besides being a mystery to the outside world, Iranian women’s football is full of peculiar juxtapositions. The national team had no official football for two years and qualified for the Asian Cup, after about six months of training. They didn’t have any pre-tournament friendlies as India approached. The Women’s Asian Cup is their biggest event ever, but their matches won’t be shown on Iran’s state-run TV channels due to a law that prohibits showing women’s bodies on screen. Iranian female athletes can train and compete, but in women-only parks and stadiums, not supervised or guarded by men.
Information about them on the Internet in English is scarce. Wikipedia says an Iranian women’s team was formed in 1976, but after the “revolution” football was banned and the Iranian women’s national team was not “refounded” until 2005. The Iranian-American Katayoun Khosrowyar, player in the 2005 team and the national junior coach in 2019 was the famous face of Iranian women’s football for the western world. Descending his trail proved unsuccessful.
In this Asian Cup, the most prominent Iranian figure is their coach with the formidable name Maryam Irandoost, daughter of former player and coach Nosrat Irandoost. In an AFC video, Ms Irandoost promises that with the right support, her team could reach the Women’s World Cup final in five years. Still, that wasn’t enough news about India’s first Asian Cup opposition on Thursday.
After days of emailing, trawling and trolling various corners of Iranian football, S Abdolhamid Ahmadi, a Tehran-based sports journalist, has sent over the Persian links of ISNA (agency Iranian student press release) reports on the Iranian women’s team. Tehran time was a diligent record keeper: a 10-day training camp in Charleroi, Belgium was canceled, the team trained at home on Kish Island before traveling to India. Irandoost said no pre-match friendly matches could be held as training requests against 14 countries had been denied. “They didn’t accept our request because Iran women’s football team is not a strong team, but I believe in my daughters and we are looking for a place in the knockout stage of the competition.”
On BBC Persian Instagram, there was a video of the women in a choir coaching on their last night at camp, singing, ‘Name Javide Vatan’, a popular song about the homeland, full of glory and of course death. ISNA said midfielder Elham Farahmand would travel to India with her five-month-old baby and mother. Army wife Farahmand is the wife of former Iranian professional and international junior Hossein Papi. If she had been from an English-speaking country, she would have been a superstar.
At this point, Payam Younesipour, the sports editor of the Vienna-based IranWire news agency, became my guide through what he calls “the closed island” on which Iranian female footballers live and play. Iranian national women’s football which was “reborn” in 2005 was again “closed” on several occasions. It was Younesipour who revealed that there was no formal or informal football for the national team from 2019 to 2021 and that they qualified for the Asian Cup after just a few months of hiatus. coaching.
During these two years in limbo, Iran were ejected from the FIFA rankings but are now ranked 70. It took pressure from FIFA and the AFC on the Iranian federation for the women’s team Iranian leaves. The ‘sabbatical years’ president of the Iranian Football Federation, Mehdi Taj, is currently vice-president of the AFC.
The team’s turnaround in just a few months, Younesipour said, was the result of Iranian women’s international connection, due to the national women’s premier league competition called Kowsar League, which is in its 15th year. “The league is vibrant and established…there are foreign camps and contact with tier one and two teams in Asia and Europe.” Current midfielder Yasaman Farmani plays for Charleroi in the Belgian Women’s Super League. Kerman province is considered the center of Iranian women’s football due to two club teams, in the municipalities of Bam and Sirjan, which provide healthy financial support for the game.
But Kowsar league matches are never filmed, let alone broadcast. Younesipour said the Intelligence Ministry persecuted the women who broadcast the contest live on their Instagram pages. Football is still not taught in Iranian girls’ schools, with players going through academies, but futsal, which started in 2001, is huge. Today, Iran are two-time Asian women’s futsal champions.
Women’s football was banned when the “Islamic Republic” was established in 1979, but even then, Younesipour says, “Iranian girls had been playing football illegally on the streets”. It’s as if the spirit of Iranian women’s football – or should it be Iranian women themselves – cannot be extinguished, let alone extinguished.
Khosh amadid, khaharan. Welcome, my sisters.