2 August 2007

Politics of sex: Football viewers in Iran

In Iran, female viewers have not been allowed to attend football games if the players are male. In 2006, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the ban to end. Interestingly, his motives for this was "chastity" and "morality" - obviously, the idea behind this being that women will behave differently in the sports arena than men - supposedly, they will not curse, nor fight etc..

The president's initiative was not welcomed by the religious leaders, however, who claimed female attendants at football games being against Islamic law (!). http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/05/01/iran.football/index.html

I don't know what really happened after that, but it would be interesting to know. The latest football news from Iran is that, recently, a women's (this label has it's own tragic history) football game between Iran and Germany was mysteriously cancelled.

I was inspired to look up these facts after watching the film Offside (2006) yesterday. In the beginning of the story, female football fans trying to get into the arena are caught by security guards. The film portrays their conversations among themselves and with the security guards. It focuses on the women's anger and the ambivalence of the security guards. We get to see how the latter TRY to take their task - to protect women from "the cursing male football fans" - seriously, but it is evident that they, too, find the entire situation ridiculous and unjustified. In a particularly funny scene, one of the football fans presses one of the guard for an answer to why they are not allowed into the arena. The guard does his best in trying to come up with a convincing answer and, most importantly, an answer that would simply make his interlocutor stop asking all these troubling questions.

The film succeeded in being political in a very off-beat, unpretentious way and it managed to focus on the different characters' varying reactions toward the situation. All in all, it was a very funny movie.

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