Iran | ‘As if one were under water’

AN: The film is four minutes. What I wanted to show with the movie is exactly this passion of football and passion of being in a match, but at the same time the loneliness of this girl—no support, no one really wants to hear about her passion. So I asked her to play along the street, followed by a boy. … This boy listens to football from the radio of his car. Together with the voice of this football match, which we hear from the radio, then she went to this wide shot, to this football stadium, which is a kind of football pitch for training. When you see the whole thing, you can understand that Banafsheh going through this football field is just her imagination. So it’s not a real field, it’s just the imagination of Banafsheh at that moment. She imagines that she enters a real football [field]. At the same time, you hear the voice from a stadium, that people are cheering.

GG: Did she participate in the first match with the Berlin team [28 Apr 06] that features in Football Under Cover?

AN: Unfortunately not. … Banafsheh has a very strong and independent character. It’s what I admire and appreciate. But being independent in Iran is always problematic. She had some problem with the football federation, and so she wasn’t in the match. So we had to choose another girl [to take her place]. … Unfortunately, [Banafsheh is] off the national football team.

GG: This match in Apr 06 was the first outdoor competition in public for the Iranian team.

AN: In Iran. Before that they had a match in Jordan. …

YouTube video

Produced by Al Jazeera’s English-language service, “Egypt—Bending It Like Beckham” aired on the Everywoman program on Jul 26. “If my fiancé [sic] wanted to play football, I would forbid her,” says a male player.

GG: Explain how difficult it was to make that first match happen. I understand that the arrangements were complicated.

AN: Extremely complicated [laughs]. In my opinion the biggest problem with female football for the fundamentalist party of Iran is [dealing with] taboo. Not only football, but whatever women do is still like a taboo. The problem in Iran is that the fundamentalists are not as strong as a majority; they have just a minority. The problem is this minority has a real power, has a great control of everything, like the money, like the army. I can say that this minority has this control. So then you go, for example, in Iran and ask people, ask the normal men, and talk with them about female football, they all like it.

We saw a documentary about female football in Egypt [see above]. There was a scene [in which] young boys start talking about [women's] football, and they are all against it. But if you ask the normal people in Iran, ask their opinion about female football, they are all for it. And we have it in our film. We talk to the normal people, and they all like it. What is actually against [women's football] is this fundamentalist idea. The most important part of our project was to convince them that there is nothing against [the fundamentalists]. It’s just about football. There is nothing political behind this. It’s nothing against religion. In reality, there is nothing. When you talk about female football, it’s just a sport. It’s right that women also can do that, and they do it very well. It’s very beautiful, very nice. The biggest problem was to break this taboo for [the fundamentalists].

The other problem was they didn’t like the men being involved. They said, for example, if you want to [film] them, you use women cinematographers, female crew. In the stadium they just let the women come, so it was out of our control.

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