Iran | ‘As if one were under water’

That the event also corresponded, according to Der Spiegel, to an annual morals campaign enforcing clothing restrictions in Iran (Anne Haeming, “Iran Cancels Women’s Football Game in Berlin,” Spiegel Online, Jun 1) was of less importance, in Najafi’s reading, than objections among officials at the Iranian embassy. Exiled Iranians in Berlin planned a small demonstration before the game, and German players intended to compete minus the coverings they had worn in Iran.

These developments meant heart-rending disappointments for the organizers and players, but accentuated the film project’s use of women’s football to illustrate the realities of daily life for women in contrasting societies. “In our film,” Najafi tells Basil Glew-Galloway of Exberliner (“A Game of Politics,” Sept 07), “you can see the German girls’ side.”

They are in the modern world, in Berlin, Germany. They just talk about football and their career in football. In Iran, the girls always talk about something else. They talk about their emotions surrounding football, their futures, whether or not they will even be able to continue playing, and the restrictions placed on them as women. The Iranian girls want to do something with their football, they want to change something. I think if their situation normalizes, they might be able to just play football, and just think about football. But for now, football is part of a larger reality for them.

“Female football in Iran is not just football,” he summarizes.

Najafi, Assmann and collaborators continue to prepare Football Under Cover for a first screening at the Berlinale in Feb 08—three years after the genesis of an idea.

Interview with Ayat Najafi

GG: You have done two short films on women’s football, The Forward’s Fear of the Penalty Kick, and Move It, both of which feature a woman player, Banafsheh Alavi. How did you find out about her and discover this interest in women’s football?

AN: The first time I heard about women’s football was from a European journalist … this was four years ago. It really interested me, first of all because I’m really a fan of football from childhood. I always loved football. I got to know about women’s football, but I didn’t know that female football was in Iran.

The second thing which interested me was I always followed women’s activities in Iran. When I heard about female football I thought that it had great potential. Then I tried to find some footballers, but it was really hard for me because of the culture of Iran, with the religious [restrictions]. So it wasn’t easy to reach them. I tried so hard, and the first female footballer that I could find was Banafsheh Alavi.

I told my idea about the short film to her, and she really liked it. We made the short film to show in the Berlinale Talent Campus, Move It. During the making of the film I really found her interesting. I found that she has a very, very strong character. She had something to say. I thought it might be interesting for a documentary film. …

GG: Tell us more about Banafsheh Alavi. How old is she? Does she live in Tehran? How long has she been playing football?

AN: Banafsheh Alavi is married. She is studying the English language in university. I think she started football as soon as they established women’s football. The thing is that she has loved football from childhood. And the most interesting thing about her was when she was a child, she was raised up like boys. … The first time that she found an article in the newspaper that they established women’s football—that was nine years ago—she joined a club. She had some friends, and [Iran] established a league. For the very first national team that [Iran] established for female football, she was a member. She played both in attack, as a forward, and also as goalkeeper.

GG: Move It involves Banafsheh juggling a ball down a street, and a car is tracking her movement, following her. She ends up in a wider space, an open area. That submission was made to the Berlin competition to show her passion for the game?

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