Iranian women’s soccer team banned from 2012 Games

The Iranian women’s soccer team has effectively been banned from the 2012 Olympics because their uniform adheres to Iran’s interpretation of Islamic standards, and thereby violates FIFA’s Olympic ban on religious displays.

The law of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that women must cover their heads in public. The FIFA rules for uniforms and equipment state that “Players and officials shall not display political, religious, commercial or personal messages or slogans in any language or form on their playing or team kits.”

The Iranian women’s team, in keeping with the country’s Islamic law, plays in full-body suits that cover their hair. They were informed last week that their uniform violated the rules, moments before an Olympic qualifying match against Jordan. Unable to play, they forfeited the game, meaning that qualifying for the Games will be virtually impossible. Heartbroken, some of the women burst into tears on the field.

Earlier this year, following a FIFA ruling about religious displays, the team started wearing a new uniform with tight-fitting headscarf, which they believed to be in keeping with the FIFA guidelines. Not so, it seems, and now, it looks like the team’s chances of making the Games are dashed.

Farideh Shojaei, the women’s representative on the Board of the Iranian Football Federation, said that the team now has little chance of making it to London. “It is extremely difficult to predict what results will come out of this, but I think it unlikely because the preliminary games will not be repeated,” she said. “The countries that invested, and spent money and time and took part in the second round will clearly not be willing to repeat these games, especially if this week it becomes clear which team will enter the final round. So it is extremely unlikely.”

Shahrzah Mozafar, the team’s former head coach agrees, but says that the consequences will stretch far beyond 2012. “This ruling means that women soccer in Iran is over,” she said. Mozafar predicts that Iran will simply stop sending the team overseas to play if they’re not allowed to play in headscarves. “Headscarves are simply what we wear in Iran,” she said.

Photo: Washington Post
Thanks to Claire for the heads up!

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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