Iranian girls set for youth games after ban

TEHRAN - Iranian female footballers will take part in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this August after world football authorities lifted a ban on the wearing of the Islamic head veil, an Iranian official said on Tuesday.

"I think this is one of the big jobs done by the football federation," the chairman of the Iranian football federation Ali Kafashian told the ISNA news agency, referring to the lifting of the ban by FIFA.

"I think this is a great success for the Muslim nations because now women footballers can compete," Kafashian said.

"So we are currently designing a special women's football kit with the help of some domestic sportswear maker."

More than 3,600 young athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 years will take part in the inaugural event in Singapore from August 14-26.

Kafashian explained that the lifting of the ban came after he met with FIFA president Sepp Blatter in Geneva last month. According to Iranian media, the ban was imposed on October 2009.

"So we urgently got ourselves to Switzerland and in our meeting with Blatter we told him about the effort to boost the standing of Iranian women footballers," he explained.

"We told him that preventing them playing with the Islamic veil is preventing the growth of (women's) football.

"Then FIFA told us that they would study our reasoning and get back to us. They shortly afterwards announced that veiled women could take part in competitions."

FIFA have not confirmed they have lifted the ban, saying only in a brief statement: "We have been in contact with the Iranian federation on this matter for the past nine months."

The Islamic dress code is mandatory in Iran, which has been under clerical rule for more than three decades.

Every post-pubescent woman regardless of her religion or nationality must cover her hair and bodily contours in public.

National state-run television rarely shows women's sports events though many Iranian women are avid sports enthusiasts -- and practitioners.

Several have won medals in international tournaments that have allowed them to compete while wearing headscarves and observing Islamic dress code, notably Sara Khoshjamal-Fekri, 21.

She became a heroine at home as the first Iranian female taekwondo Olympic qualifier and was listed by Time magazine as one of the "100 Olympic Athletes to Watch" at the 2008 Beijing Games, where she was knocked out in the quarter-finals.

Marjan Kalhor, national skiing champion and Homa Hosseini, national rowing champion made histroy when they carried the Islamic republic's flag at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olypmics and the Beijing Games resepctively.