“I Do Everything I Want.” (Iranian female football players)

Whilst visiting Hamburg a month ago, I went to the cinema ‚Metropolis‘. As part of the pre-event of the 19th Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage Hamburg (The Hamburg Lesbian and Gay Film Festival) which takes place in October, the documentary film Football Under Cover by David Assmann and Ayat Najafi was being shown. It was also s hown in the beginning of this year at the 59th Berlinale and got the TEDDY (the Teddy Awards go to the films that have a gay or/and lesbian context) for Best Documentary Film.

But what is this movie about, that made me write and especially think so much? ‚Football Under Cover‘ deals with the idea and its implementation of a football game between a local mulicultural girl´s team from Berlin and the Iranian football team. A National Team, which so far has not played a single game against a foreign team. Why? Because woman´s football in Iran is stell taboo and a football game would drwa a lot of unwanted attention.

That Iran is a country full of ‘football madmen’ has already been proven by the Iran Sanctions imposed by the United Nations, explained Ayat Najafi, one of the film directors in an interview. You can read it here (German). Of course, the circle of ‘football madmen’ consists not only of men. However, it only remains possible for men to go and watch football games in a stadium, the Iranian government forbids women to be present. The surprising thing is that women are not forbidden to play football, there is even a women’s league in Iran that participates in matches against other Islamic teams, though there is no reporting on the games. Besides that women have to practice in secluded places in a long dress wearing a headscarf.

Photo: Zorro Film

But what the Iranian girl..s team shares with all other nations and people around the world specifically in this case with the German girls of the local Berlin team is the joy; the love towards the game. They laugh and have fun, make jokes and look like children when they score a goal with the same ambition. Some of the players even share the dream of becoming a professional football player.

Knowing all these problems and after a few obstacles regarding; the authorities, the football federation, sponsors, visa and jerseys the Berlin team finally travelled to Iran. The football game took place in April 2006 under the observation of guardians of public morals in Tehran. The participants were shocked when they heard, that an Iranian player, who had played a substantial part in the organisation of the game in Tehran was excluded from the game and furthermore was no longer a member of the Iranian Womens..s National Team. When the match started she was sitting in the audience. An audience who was not allowed to sing or cheer during the game. However, towards the end the female audience decided not to care and danced, sang and supported their team loudly. It ended with the friendly result of 2:2. But the friendships and all other relations, based on the idea of a documented football match, are just beginning.

‘Football Under Cover’ is an overwhelmingly interesting, funny and in the same time tragic film about the enthusiasm for football without limits and the emerging friendship in spite of all cultural differences. But even more it is a film about the inhuman conditions in today’s Iran a film that sensitizes the audience to the issues denoted in the film. A film about a country, in which there is still no freedom and equality.

Photo: Berlinale

The return match, which was supposed to be held in Berlin in June 2007 was cancelled at short notice by Iran.

After the game is before the game – After the freedom is before the freedom.

Posted on eurOut on October 10th, 2008


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