Mixed-Gender Soccer Matches Aren’t OK In Iran

We recently reported on the late-night midfield tryst between Croatian soccer player Dino Drpic and his wife, which led to Drpic being placed on transfer list out of Zagreb. And by contrast, as if we needed more examples of the difference between Western and Middle Eastern culture, three officials in Iran have been suspended and fined because they held a soccer game in which men and women…played against each other.

iranian women's soccer

It is thought to have been the first mixed-gender soccer game since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. At first, the officials of  Esteghlal — which staged the match between the club’s female team and youth male side — denied that the game had taken place, but cell phone video was leaked that proved that this apparently egregious affront to humanity had occurred.

Women are also barred from attending men’s soccer matches, apparently to be “protected” from the coarse language and unruly behavior of the male spectators.  Surprisingly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad actually wanted to lift the ban on females at matches, but was overruled by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (I guess that shows how much influence Ahmedinejad really has over his country’s policies if he’s being overruled on something as trivial as soccer spectating).

As for the match itself, the AP’s Ali Akbar Dareini (by way of YAHOO! SPORTS) explains the punishments that were doled out:

According to the Esteghlal soccer club, Mohammad Khorramgah, the club’s technical manager, was suspended for a year and fined 50 million rials ($5,000) for the Jan. 20 game.

The only woman among the suspended—Saeedeh Pournader, head coach of the female team—also got a year’s suspension. Mostafa Ardestani, head coach of the youth team, got a six-month suspension and a 20 million rial ($2,000) fine.

A prominent Iranian soccer player and manager of the club’s soccer academy, Ali Reza Mansourian, got a written rebuke and a fine of 50 million rials, the club said.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a game. The young boys beat the women 7-0 at a stadium in south Tehran.

Women’s soccer has only recently been widely accepted in Iran. A national women’s team was formed in 2005, but already has had some success in Asia, nearly qualifying for last year’s Asian Cup finals. As you can see from the photo above, the Iranian players have to wear long sleeves, pants, and a head scarf. And home matches are attended only by women (at least they’re consistent with the one-gender-at-a-time rules there).

Leave a Reply