April 12, 2008 – One of the highlights of the recent Berlin Film Festival was a documentary called “Football Under Cover” about a women’s soccer match played in Tehran between Iranian and German teams in 2006.
Filmmaker Ajat Najafi and his German colleague David Assmann’s directed the project, whose title refers to the fact that both teams had to cover up during the match - even though men weren’t allowed into the stadium.
From the Berlin programme comes this synopsis:
Iran’s national women’s team and a local Berlin women’s football team are playing their first official friendly match – before a crowd of more than a thousand cheering women. The atmosphere at the stadium is electric and super-charged with girl power. Outside the stadium, a few men peer through the fencing, trying to catch a glimpse of the proceedings, because on this day, men are barred from the game.Although their only desire was to play football together, it has taken the young women of both teams a whole year of bitter struggle to get where they are today. Theirs has been a battle against testosterone, arbitrariness and oppression. This film follows Marlene, left-back of the Kreuzberg club BSV AL-Dersimpor, and Iranian player Niloofar on their journey. The girls don’t just want to play a game; they want to get to know each other.
In spite of the game being postponed time and again, and the fact that the women are not able to play in Asia’s largest football stadium as planned, but on a dried up old pitch; and although Niloofar is forbidden from taking part in the game – for reasons which nobody understands – the girls refuse to be browbeaten. And, when the big day arrives, there’s singing and dancing on the grandstands. This 90-minute film is more than just a football game. The desire for self-determination and equality is being expressed here and, one thing is clear – change is possible.
If you’re interested in the topic, you might want to also check out Offside, director Jafar Panahi’s offbeat tale about a group of Iranian girls who find themselves arrested after posing as boys to sneak into a soccer stadium to see a key international qualifying match. The film, apparently inspired by the director’s daughter, won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in 2006.