The ‘unimaginable’ obstacles facing Iran’s women’s football team

Hosted by SBS Japanese’s Yumi Oba, the first episode of the four-part series, ‘Moving Goalposts – Beyond Barriers’ addresses the gap in the progress of women’s football in Asia as the Asian Cup 2022 kicks off in India, and look at the raft of challenges the sport still faces on the world’s largest continent.

And a team entering the tournament for only the first time, Iran, faced more such challenges than most.

Although the first women’s football team was established in 1970, the Iranian revolution of 1979 put an end to the team quickly as it could not develop in the country until 2005 when it was re-established .

Finally able to compete again after such a long hiatus, the team achieved great results in the years that followed, finishing second in the 2005, 2007 and 2011 editions of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship.

Then, in 2011, the team was banned by FIFA from participating in any international competition due to the wearing of the hijab by its female players, once again limiting its growth as it was unable to follow through on its bid for the London Olympics in 2012. The ban was lifted a year later, but the team did not reform until 2020.

Although they have been able to play since then and have done well given the circumstances, these pitfalls have remained an obstacle to Iran’s recognition in the wider footballing world in Asia, as their preparation for the Asian Cup was seriously affected.

Despite reaching 14 countries, the team was unable to hold a single friendly match before the tournament as it was not listed in the latest FIFA World Rankings, a blow for a team trying to prepare as best as possible. for such a crucial event.

Along with female team players, female Iranian spectators have not been allowed into stadiums to watch matches since the revolution, adding further hardship to the growth of women’s football.

3,000 women were able to buy tickets and watch a match from a special section of a stadium in Tehran in 2019, but since then there has been no lasting change.

Iran’s women’s team played their first-ever Asian Cup game against India on Friday (AEDT) in a 0-0 draw, before an unfortunate 7-0 loss to China in their second group match.

Their next match is against Chinese Taipei on Thursday morning (AEDT).

About the author