New movie tells of Iranian womens' love of football

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi is hopeful that his new film, a light-hearted critique of a ban on women going to football matches, will not fall foul of the Islamic Republic’s censors. “I have been waiting for permission ... but they’ve not said ‘yes’ or even ‘no’,” he told AFP. The film, Offside, depicts a group of girls who disguise themselves as boys in a bid to illicitly watch their national side qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. “I chose the title since the term is a punitive measure for trying to score illegally, and the girls in my film are also trying to get into the stadium illegally, said the 46-year-old director.

"Most of my films talk about restrictions imposed on human beings, and here women are more restricted than men. So I used soccer as a means to show the restrictions ... During my shooting on location in Azadi stadium in Tehran, I sensed that some people in the football federation are inclined towards allowing women to enter the stadium. They see the current rule is hurting the image of football in Iran,” he said. “Since women are not allowed in stadiums, the chants from the spectators are full of profanities. But if they allow women in, these profanities will subside,” he predicted.

Iranian women have been barred from football matches since the 1979 Islamic revolution and clerics argue that women in stadiums is a recipe for disaster, given that they would see “bare legs” of male players. "So, Panahi’s tribute to Iranian women fans, which scored a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, also looks doomed", Farhad Pouladi of AFP commented.

See also: All women still banned from Iranian football games (8 May)