Culture And Media

Iran: Film on female footballers exposes more about regime

Rome, 25 July (AKI) - Football Under Cover is a documentary about a 2006 women's football match between Iran and Germany.

The film, directed by Ayat Najafi and David Assman, tells the story of a women's football team from Berlin that travelled to Tehran to play against the Iranian women's football team.

"We decided to insert the word 'Under Cover' in the title not only because the players had to be covered from top to toe while on the field, but also because throughout the game, it felt very much like a spy story or an undercover operation," said Najafi.

The movie's co-director was recently in Rome after the film won a prize at the Berlin Film Festival and an award for freedom of expression at an OutFest film festival in Los Angeles in the US.

This is Najafi's first full-length film after having directed seven short films as well as many theatrical productions.

He said that the German players were under surveillance 24 hours a day while they were in Tehran.

"The experience for these young women can be divided into two parts - before and after the famous game," he said.

"In the days before the meeting, the women were kept under control in a way that was offensive and embarrassing.

"They were even escorted when they went to the toilet, as if they were dangerous terrorists or spies that had arrived from Europe to try and overthrow the Iranian regime," he said.

"All of that changed the moment the team from Berlin entered the stadium."

"The behaviour of the Iranian women's national team, the warmth of the fans, meant that when they were boarding the plane to return to Berlin, the players in the German team had tears in their eyes," said Najafi.

He said that the German players could see the significant difference between the Iranian people and the regime which governs the country.

Najafi noted that any news about Iranian women, as well as their love for football, makes headlines abroad, particularly in Europe.

"It's the determination of women from my country that attracts international attention," said the documentary filmmaker.

"The women in Iran are determined in football as they are in all that they do in a bid to win their rights," he said.

"This determination which characterises Iranian women has become a symbol for those who believe in democracy and in the equality of the sexes, but at the same time this has made them the main enemy of the regime which fears any change," said Najafi.

Najafi said that there were many difficulties in making the film.

"Everything to do with women in Iran as become a taboo," he said.

"Any gesture, request or activity by women is seen by the Iranian authorities as suspect, something as simple as women wanting to have a football match could be an international plot," he said.

"To sum it up, the Islamic regime greatly fears the women, because they are considered a symbol of change."




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