Reuters: Sport-Malaysia counts on big spending to boost sporting success

Oct 30 (Reuters) - After again narrowly missing out on their first Olympic gold medal in London earlier this year, Malaysia plans to spend 187.2 million ringgit ($61.24 million) in 2013 to boost the country's sporting performance.
"The challenge for us here is simply that that we don't just spend money, but to make sure that the money will generate sporting success," the Star daily reported youth and sports minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek as saying on Tuesday.
The figure is higher than spending in previous years and 8.5 million ringgit of the amount has been set aside for the biennial Malaysia Games, for under-21 athletes, to be held in Kuala Lumpur in June and July next year.
The heavy spending comes with the government hoping to shore up support among younger voters ahead of an election which it must call by April.
Malaysia won their first medal outside of badminton at the London Olympics this year, with Pandelela Rinong taking bronze in the women's 10 metre diving event.
"Although we didn't win gold this time, it was by far our best performance to date. And we know we can excel in different sports," Ahmad Shabery said.
($1 = 3.0570 Malaysian ringgits) (Reporting By Siva Sithraputhran. Editing by Patrick Johnston)


UAE defeat Palestine in AFC pre-qualifying game.

Bethlehem: AFC Women's Asian Cup 2014 qualification hopefuls Palestine went down to a 4-2 home defeat to the UAE in an international friendly at the Al Khader Stadium.
The UAE dominated the first-half and were 3-0 up after 34 minutes played, with Sara Muhammed adding to goals from Dalila Zarouqui (12th) and Iman Tarouda (16th).

The Palestinians rallied and went into the interval trailing by just one goal courtesy of a 37th minute Walaa Hussein effort and a Karol Sahejan strike one minute before the half-time whistle but their efforts turned out to be in vain as Tarouda scored her second and the UAE's fourth and final goal in the 62nd minute.

Palestine are in Group D of the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers alongside Myanmar, Chinese Taipei and India with the match schedules to be announced soon.

Source: Women's Soccer United 

Results: Africa Women Championship

South Africa   
RD Congo   
 South Africa
 RD Congo
 South Africa
RD Congo   
 Cote d'Ivoire
Cote d'Ivoire   
Cote d'Ivoire   

QWSC to host FIFA U14 Girls Festival

DOHA, October 30, 2012-The Qatar Women’s Sports Committee (QWSC) will organise the FIFA U14 Girls Festival at Qatar SC on November 11, 2012.
The event will feature the participation of players and students of Qatari schools.
Earlier in September, the QWSC organized the Local Girls Football Festival at Aspire Academy of Sports Excellence.
The festival featured the participation of 12 primary schools including Middle East International School, Al-Hekma Private School, Global Academy, Jordanian School, Egyptian School, Al-Noor Private Scholl, Al-Bayan School, Al-Salam School, Um Saeed School, Al-Noor Languages School.


Pakistan women's cricket team off to China

ISLAMABAD: A 15-member Pakistan women's cricket team left for China on Monday to participate in the ACC Women's T20 Asia Cup starting in Guangzhou from October 25.
Talking to reporters, skipper Sana Mir said that the team had done a lot of hard work for the important tournament and they would not disappoint the nation. Team coach Mohtashim Rasheed and manager Ayesha Ashhar are among the four officials of the team.
Eight nations including hosts China, Pakistan, India, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are competing in the event.
Squad: Sana Mir (captain) Bismah Maroof, Syeda Nain Fatima Abidi, Javeria Wadood, Nida Rashid, Marina Iqbal, Batool Fatima, Qanita Jalil, Asmavia Iqbal Khokhar, Rabiya Shah, Mariam Hassan Shah, Sadia Yousuf, Nahida Bibi, Sumayya Siddiqui, Javeria Rauf.

Qatar Women Hope To Make History

DOHA, Qatar, Dec 23, (AP): Three weeks before the Arab Games in Doha, Qatari sports officials called Nada Mohammed Wafa to tell her she would be competing in the Middle East’s biggest sporting event. Surprised - and a bit scared - the 17-year-old swimmer replied: “Oh wow! Sure!” Wafa, who had only competed in school-level events until then, trained hard to make up for the short time she had before making history by becoming the first woman on Qatar’s national swim team. “It’s a good feeling, but it’s also very lonely,” Wafa said. “It’s just me, myself and I.” Wafa may be Qatar’s lone female swimmer, but she is part of a group of emerging athletes in the conservative Muslim country that hopes to send women to the Olympics for the first time in London next year. And if Wafa’s phone rings in five months or somebody confirms her name is on the list, she would be delighted to go and compete.
Nada Mohammed Wafa
“I’d be over the moon,” Wafa said. Along with Saudi Arabia and Brunei, Qatar has never sent female athletes to the Olympics. Last year, the International Olympic Committee urged the three countries to end the practice of sending all-male teams to the games, hoping that naming and shaming would do more for female athletes than banning their nations from the Olympics. While Saudi Arabia’s plans to send women to the London Games remain wrapped in secrecy, Qatar is feverishly working to escape the stigma that comes with failing to include women. Over the past decade, the tiny but rich Gulf country has been targeting sports as a vehicle to showcase its global aspirations. Last year, it became the first Arab country to win the right to host the World Cup in 2022. And Qatar’s bid for the 2020 Olympics adds the pressure to include women on the teams in London.

Qatar Olympic Committee President Sheik Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said female athletes have been competing in international tournaments for the past three years, including last year’s Youth Olympics in Singapore.
The only reason women were not included for the 2008 Beijing Games is because they didn’t qualify in any sport, Sheik Saoud said. He added that Qatar is talking to the IOC about sending female athletes to the games next year on wild-card invitations.
“That’s the thing with the Olympics. They can’t go if they don’t qualify,” Sheik Saoud said. “It’s not about us being unwilling to send women to the tournament. But it takes time to prepare athletes to compete on the international level.”

It also takes time to change mindsets in a deeply conservative society. Qatar follows the Wahhabi branch of Islam, a strict version that predominates in Saudi Arabia.
There are no written laws in Qatar - or Saudi Arabia - that ban and restrict women from participating in sports. Rather, the stigma of female athletes is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.
Unlike in Saudi Arabia, where women are still banned from driving, much has changed in Qatar since the country began an ambitious process of opening up to the world, largely through hosting high-profile sporting events in tennis, soccer, and track and field.

But getting women to compete in Qatar is quite a different thing than sending then to compete abroad.
“It’s unusual in this culture,” said Hana al-Badr, a 20-year-old handball player who has seen the change since she joined Qatar’s first female handball team four years ago. “My teachers and my friends in school use to look at me and say, ‘You are a girl and you are traveling to play outside? How can your family let you?’ But now it’s become normal.”
Wafa, the swimmer, didn’t win any medals at the Arab Games but succeeded in improving her times.
She beat her best in the 50-meter breast stroke by 3 seconds and missed the finals by a second. She also improved her time in the 50 freestyle by a second, beat her personal best in the 100 breast stroke by 15 seconds and was happy with her time of 1 minute, 10 seconds in the 100 freestyle.
“It was amazing experience,” Wafa said. “I had so little time to train, but I finished seconds away from champions. I am so happy with my results.”

Qatar has invested heavily in women’s sports over the past decade, introducing special programs for girls in school and organizing training camps at home and abroad for female athletes with talent and ambition to compete on the international level.
In the past three years, al-Badr and her teammates played in three international tournaments, including last year’s Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, where 90 Qatari women competed in a half-dozen disciplines.
Qatar also started a six-team women’s soccer league last year and hosted a Gulf basketball tournament. The shining moment for Qatar’s female athletes came at last year’s inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where two qualified to compete.

“It’s a big challenge for us,” said Lolwah al-Marri, the general secretary of Qatar’s Olympic committee who is charged with developing sports for women. “When we started, families were concerned for the girls’ safety and were afraid people would start talking badly about their daughters.”
The focus 10 years ago was on building women’s team sports, but by December 2011, when Doha was hosting the Arab Games, 40 percent of the Qatari delegation were women, competing in volleyball and basketball and eight individual sports, including gymnastics and swimming.
“The dress code is a big problem in these sports,” al-Marri said.
There are signs, however, that the times when families in the desert nation of 1.6 million kept their women confined to the home are receding into the past.

“It’s not an issue, the dress,” said Shaden Wahdan, a 16-year-old gymnast.
One of the costumes she wore at the Youth Olympics will one day be on display at an Olympic Museum that Qatar plans to open, Wahdan said. She is the first woman to have competed for Qatar in an Olympic event last year.
“I don’t really care what people think. I want to compete and win medals,” Wahdan said during this month’s Arab Games, the region’s biggest multi-sports event.
And win medals she did: two golds, one on the floor and another in the beam. She also was awarded two silver medals and a bronze, a tally that definitely boosted her chances of going to the London Games.
“It would be such a great experience,” Wahdan said.
Saudi Arabia’s 18-year-old equestrian athlete, Dalma Rushdi Malhas, was the first woman to compete internationally for the ultra-conservative kingdom. She won a bronze medal at the Singapore Youth Olympics.
Sticking to tradition, Saudi Arabia sent an all-male team to the Arab Games, but local media have reported that Riyadh might send Malhas to the London Games to avoid criticism.

Women’s rights organizations - and some IOC members - say Saudi Arabia should be banned from the Olympics for excluding women.
“Dalma is being used as a token woman they want to send to London to avoid being banned,” said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Institute of Gulf Affairs that has been behind the “No Women No Play” campaign that advocates the Saudi Olympic ban.
Qatari sports officials say it is unfair to lump their nation with Saudi Arabia. Many credit Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, Qatar’s first lady and a campaigner for women’s empowerment, for successfully conveying the message to society that sports can be good for girls.
“Going to the games is not an issue in Qatar. Changing mindsets is,” said Noora al-Mannai, the CEO of Doha’s 2020 Olympic bid, adding that Doha will in the next three years open a high-performance training center for female athletes from all over the region.
“It’s happening,” al-Mannai said, “but changes take time and I am sure that by the time Olympics come to Doha, there will be many female athletes who qualify to compete.”

Women's sport is underfunded and ignored, charity claims

Women's sport is sidelined, underfunded and ignored, according to a broad coalition of MPs, peers, sportswomen and broadcasters who have warned that the legacy of a historic summer for women's sport is in danger of being squandered.
The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) called coverage of women's sport – only 5% of media coverage – shocking and said the government must do more to promote women's sport.
Research from the charity revealed that women's sport receives just 0.5% of all commercial sponsorship, while only one in five board members of national governing bodies are women.
"It has been the most amazing summer for women's sport, and we must not now let the moment pass," said Sue Tibballs, CEO of WSFF. "More coverage is not going to just happen on its own – we need action from the government, media and commercial partners to make this happen."
The charity was joined at a meeting in the House of Lords by Olympic gold medallist rower Katherine Grainger, journalist Clare BaldingHarriet Harman, shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Lady Grey-Thompson and Barbara Keeley MP. They called for more media coverage, more programmes aimed at girls in school, more female leadership in sports organisations and more opportunities for women and girls to get involved in sport. "Only 12% of girls at the age of 14 are taking part in the recommended amount of activity – and that has very serious ramifications beyond sport," said Tibballs. "This summer, we saw female athletes who were strong, powerful and inspiring. Let's see them celebrated as athletes, rather than dressing them up in evening gowns."
Three-quarters of people surveyed by the charity wanted to see more media coverage of women's sport, while 81% thought female athletes at London 2012 provided better role models for young girls than other celebrities.
Grainger said she had not become a sportswoman to be a role model, but took her role seriously. "It was an amazing summer for women's sport, everywhere I've gone since then everyone is still buzzing with excitement and sense that everything is possible," she said.
"The stage was utterly set for the girl power Olympics." Women had won medals "because they were capable, inspired and because they were good enough," she said.
Balding, who became a favourite with viewers during the Olympics and Paralympics, called on broadcasters to show more women's sport. "What about if editors in newspapers and radio shows dedicated just one item a day to women's sport?" she asked.
She called for the media to be "honest" about the sport they covered: "it is not the sport, it is the men's sport," she said. Broadcasters and newspapers were missing a opportunity to meet a desire for more coverage of women's sport. "This is the moment for a broadcaster to stand up and say we believe in this we're going to support this," she said.
Harman joined with WSFF in calling for an inquiry into media coverage of women's sport by the culture, media and sport select committee. She called for women in sport to be "strident, stroppy" and not to accept the status quo.
She also called for more aggressive use of the Equality Act, saying it should not be legal for men to be paid more prize money in sporting competitions, for women to be excluded from sporting clubs or for mens teams to travel in business class, while women were in economy.
"If these things are not against the law we need amendments to the Equality Act", she said, adding that if they were against the law "we need to sue the backsides off people".

Raising An Olympian - NEVIN YANIT

P & G represents series about the mother behind Olympians of London 2012. 


Amid Glares, Female Weight Lifters Compete


Women weight lifters in the United Arab Emirates, like Amna Al Haddad, are competing in what is thought of as a "man's sport."
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — In a private gym tucked away in the warren of villas in the ritzy Jumeirah district here, Amna Al Haddad, a 22-year-old, adjusted her head scarf, bent to a dumbbell rack and jerked 100 pounds, roughly her body weight, into the air.
“I can lift a boy up,” she said.
Al Haddad is one of 12 women who train as competitive weight lifters in the United Arab Emirates, combating the stigma of lifting as a “man’s sport” in the Arab country, whose local population — despite the presence of bikini-clad foreigners for decades — holds to its conservative Muslim tradition.
Weight lifting is often confused with bodybuilding in the Emirates and women who take part are often seen as masculine, or lesbian, which is a crime in the U.A.E.
In the summer, Khadija Mohammed, 17, became the first female Emirati lifter to make the Olympics.
More conservative Emiratis say the sport “should be for a man, that your body will be changed,” said Faisal al-Hammadi, the secretary-general for the U.A.E. Weightlifting Federation.
Female lifters say they are told that the sport will make them unattractive to male suitors; marriage is still considered the most important event in a young Emirati woman’s life.
“A lot of women say, ‘Wow, look at her body,’ ” Al Haddad said. “They ask me how to get lean, and when I say I weight lift, they get scared. But it’s the 21st century now. I don’t want to get married until I make the Olympics.”
Her sinewy frame is a testament to the grueling daily training sessions that include clean-and-jerk and snatch lifts or core and strength training.
Weight lifting remains the only women’s national team of the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
 “We tried to make a team with other countries like Kuwait and Bahrain, but they also faced that negativity,” al-Hammadi said.
The U.A.E. allowed women to weightlift starting in 2000. In 2008, it separated the bodybuilding and weight lifting federations, lessening the decidedly unfeminine imagery attached to lifting compared with that of bodybuilding’s hulking muscles and popping veins.
With support from the Dubai Sports Council, the federation has put an emphasis on the sport, recruiting athletes who would not gravitate toward lifting.
In 2009, it brought in a new head coach, Najwan El Zawawi, an Egyptian who competed for her home country at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Last year, the International Weightlifting Federation lifted a competition ban on head scarves, effectively opening the sport to female Muslim athletes.
In April, the U.A.E. sent a team to the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, the first time they had competed internationally.
The group performance there was good enough to win Mohammed a berth to the London Olympics, effectively placing the Emiratis on the sport’s global map.
But the program is still badly underfinanced, and stigma against the female athletes is rampant.
“Our resources are less than other countries with a female athlete culture, like Kazakhstan,” al-Hammadi said.
He hopes the Olympic hype will change things, like in 2005, when Dubai hosted the Asian Weightlifting Championship. It was the first time most Emirati women had heard of weight lifting.
“After that, they knew it was something they should join,” he said. “Friends, sisters joined the team together.”
It could help that the woman onstage, clean-and-jerking the dumbbell, is wearing a head scarf.
Al Haddad said of her sport, “Close friends are interested now.”
“People like us, when they see someone like them doing it, they can identify,” Al Haddad said. They realize that “you can still love and respect your beliefs,” but be an athlete.
Hopes are high that the women’s team will eventually catch the men, who lift in a different gym at Dubai’s sprawling Al Shabab Al Arabi Club, and who number more than 35.
At a recent workout, Al Haddad, in the company of a male trainer, wore full arm and leg compression skins under her shorts and a short-sleeve shirt with the word “beast” printed in bold across it, a concession to tradition.
Sweat running down her face, she chugged an amino acid drink supplement and said she pushed through the pain — and the negative comments — by thinking about four things: “Focus and breathe and stretch and Olympics.”
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/sports/amid-glares-female-muslim-weightlifters-compete.html?_r=0

Irish Surf Champion's mission to Iran to get women surfing


Off a quiet stretch of Iran's Indian Ocean coast villagers gathered to stare in astonishment. Someone even called out the local police, who turned up in full force. The view of an Irish woman in a hijab wetsuit riding a bright pink surfboard through the swell of a monsoon sea is not one the Islamic state's citizens get to see often.
"But they were all incredibly nice, just really intrigued and interested. The police were just worried that I'd hit the rocks and hurt myself. The worst thing really was wearing the Lycra hijab suit in 30-degree heat, that was pretty tricky. But although I'm sure it would have been fine if I'd gone out in shorts, I was keen to show total respect," said Easkey Britton, 26, four times Irish surf champion and British pro-tour champion.
The Donegal surfer's trip to Iran has been made into a short documentary by French film-maker Marion Poizeau which will be shown on French TV later this month before beginning a tour of international film festivals, hopefully later in the year.
Both women arrived in Iran unannounced and unsure of their reception. "It was just a wild plan to surf where a woman had never surfed before, to try and get other women interested," Britton said.
They didn't even know if they would be able to find waves. She went into the sea in a monsoon swell close to Chabahar, southern Iran. "There was a lot of looking at Google Earth before I went!" she laughed. "But we've been overwhelmed by the reaction to the film."
Britton hopes to use it to get more women into the waves. "I'd love to see more women surfing and I'd love to see it become a sport for everyone, not just the wealthy. There's surfing in the Gaza Strip now, and in Bangladesh, believe it or not. It's amazing really. There's also a brilliant scheme I've seen in Brazil where they are taking the kids from the favelas and getting them into surfing, donating the boards and gear. It's transforming their lives and showing that surfing can be a lot more than just a leisure pursuit, it's a great tool to open life up for women and girls and offer opportunities."
While surfing is taking off among Muslim women in California, and at least one surf company has started producing "burkini" surfwear suitable for the all-body cover-up they require, along with the Islamic swimwear that is already available, Britton is keen to encourage women from impoverished countries to taste the freedom of the waves.
Named after a wave break off her native Ireland's west coast, that was in turn named after the Irish for fish, Easkey Britton had little chance to avoid the sea. She points out that she is not just trying to get more women in the water but wants to reclaim a sport that was at its origins possibly dominated by women.
"In Hawaii, where surfing began, it was a sport of royalty and of the poor, and mostly of women. The engravings from Captain Cook's trip show lots of people out in the water on some kind of board and almost all of them were women. I suppose the missionaries came long after that, however, and that was that," she said.
"But often when kids learn to surf the girls pick it up and get better much quicker than the boys. So it's just a shame there are not more women in surfing but I hope that's changing and I want to help change it. In Ireland there's not too many women surfing either, but I think that's maybe about climate and weather as much as anything.
"Surfing is still seen as very male-dominated, but that's changing. Women are making a big impact and aren't being put off by the notion that you have to be super-fit to surf. You just need to be a good swimmer.
"I've seen a lot of newcomers fall in love with surfing and I hope to be back in Iran next year getting a few of those women I met out of a board for the first time. That would be something to get them out frolicking in the ocean, with all the freedom of the sea to enjoy."


The Balls to Play

By Maggie Murphy
Under reported and financed in theWest, women’s football is nevertheless a powerful and empowering force for women in many parts of the world.
‘How does it feel to be a woman playing a man’s game?’ I have received many much more intrusive questions about my sport of choice over the past 15 years.This time, however, it was less the question than the questioner that left me a little surprised. Over a canapé at the annual reception for St Anne’s Blues players and college sports captains in 2003, Ruth Deech had just – in my eyes – casually accepted a premise that I had rejected at the age of ten in the back garden. 
Casual discrimination is rife within women’s football and always has been. It ranges from simply not being included on the club website and being persistently allocated substandard training facilities, pitches and changing rooms,to rarely enjoying more than a literal square inch of any local newspaper column or the tiniest sliver of any financial cake. 
Things aren’t as bad as they used to be; at the time, women’s football was the fastest growing sport in the UK and I was battling with my own jealousy at seeing new girls’ clubs and academies springing up all around the country. Football seemed to be losing its gender – it didn’t feel like the right time to take the question too seriously. However, as much as I was slightly irked by the question back then,the words found themselves in my own mouth several years later when I was least expecting it.
In 2009, I travelled to Iraq as part of a small election observation team,there to observe polling stations in an area populated by ethnic and religious minorities who were feverishly afraid that their ballot boxes would be the first to go missing and the last to be looked for.The evening before election day, an unexpected night-time travel ban was imposed, which only exacerbated the atmosphere of nervous anticipation.We raced against the dusk and the curfew to get to the first village on our itinerary the next day.My eyes flitted across the darkening outlines of buildings and shadowy shapes of figures hurrying home.My feet were resting gently on
two AK47s in the back of the jeep. Nobody had spoken for a while. As we sped along, a snapshot scene suddenly caught my eye and I let out a cry. 
‘Look!’ In the gloom,my eyes had picked out two young women, one in a headscarf the other bare-headed, walking side by side along the makeshift road.They were chatting,totally at ease. Both were wearing tracksuits and football shirts, one carried a football.We sped away,the driver not willing to be distracted. But until this day, I have always regretted not stopping the car and asking those girls, ‘Really – what does it feel like to be a woman playing a man’s game?’ Their challenges surely went beyond playing on the dog-eared pitches. 
In September last year,the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution with the wonderfully stern title ‘Promoting awareness, understanding and the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through sport and the Olympic ideal.’ Suddenly sport is getting serious. Brazil and the UK have been key players, both bearing the solemn burden of hosting what will be the two most watched global sporting events in the


Play like a Girl in Iran... just don't watch like one.

The colourful world of football is composed of players, coaches, teams and most importantly fans. The loyalty and passion of global football fans is unparalleled. Their energy, support are motivating factors for the players and their presence at matches is an important indicator on the overall success of clubs.

Football fandom is so important and ingrained in society that there are organizations created to represent the right of supporters and fans to lower ticket prices, safe standing and protection of clubs.
The world is abuzz with excitement as the World Cup Brazil 2014 qualifying matches are underway. This past week one of the qualifying matches caught some attention. Iran played South Korea and won 1-0.
Iran is one of the tops teams in Group A of the Asian Football Confederation and are ranked 54 by FIFA’s ranking. Crowds in Tehran were almost at 80,000 at Azadi Stadium and elated that their team had defeated a team that is ranked much higher (South Korea 28).
Iranian nationals are passionate about football. Along with wrestling and volleyball it is the most popular sport. They flock to the matches and celebrate accordingly. They are allowed to rejoice in the jubilant atmosphere- unless they are Iranian women.
Women have been banned from watching live matches in public since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. They have been relegated to staying at home and supporting the teams in private.
Most recently Iranian women were not allowed to watch any Euro Cup 2012 matches that were screened publicly. This heightens a level of frustration among a large part of the population already struggling with image and regulations in Iran.
Despite the impermissibility, after the match there was a media release of two women dressing up as men in order to attend the Iran-Korea game with male relatives. They posted pictures and added a video of match highlights. This issue is of utmost importance as it clearly denotes that in order for women to partake in something that most cultures consider a gender neutral normal activity, they must be identifiable as men. In most other Muslim countries women are allowed and do attend attend matches in public. Often they may be harassed or leered at (another patriarchal societal ill) but they are not punishable by law.
When Iran beat Japan and qualified for the World Cup in 2006, many women defied policy and tried to enter the stadium forcefully clashing with police. The stadium was filled to capacity (100,000) and rejoiced in the win. Women danced in the streets and the strict Islamic Police were far more lenient during the celebrations.
One of the most ardent supporters of female supporters’ right to access public stadiums is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In his first term in office in 2006 he tried unsuccessfully to change a law allowing women to attend stadium matches and watch football in public areas.
The reason given by the president seems to have been intended to placate hardliners. "The presence of women and families in public places promotes chastity," he said. As a football-adoring man, he has lobbied and been an outspoken voice for allowing women to watch matches since taking office.
Clerics have rebuffed his efforts and stated that “It was un-Islamic for a woman to look at a strange man’s leg- even if she doesn’t take pleasure from it”. Stadiums are said to be filled with rowdy fan using profanity and inappropriate language. The decision to ban women was explained as a “protection” for them.
Fierce debate ensued and finally Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled in favour of the clerics’ decision.
In many countries around the world a citizens’ patriotic connection is directly correlated to their unwavering support National Sports Teams. Politics and divisions may create cleavages in a society but one thing in common is unbridled passion for the home country team to succeed.
Ironically, women in Iran have won the fight to play football and represent their country wearing hijabs as part of their uniform. In Iran they are permitted to play games without men on-site on quality fields. They have hosted international matches in Tehran against other teams. Iranian Women’s national football team is very supported in Iran and has strong governmental support for development. A new Azadiye Stadium was to be completed in 20120 in Tehran to support the advancement of women’s soccer in Iran.
Iran lobbied strongly for FIFA to lift a hijab ban which prevented the women’s team  from qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics. They suited up in specially designed kits with modified hijabs caps without covering their necks. So, women in Iran are encouraged to play football but not to watch men play it.
More frustrating is that non_Iranian women are allowed to attend the matches at Azadi stadium. There were Korean female supporters at the match adding to the fury of Iranian women.  
Iranian women can enjoy the sport shrouded at home but can not translate their passion into attending a live match. For most football lovers this simple right would be unbearable- male or female. Recently, Tales of a Hijabi Footballer published a piece on the topic of fandom and hijab.
Enjoying the thrilling competition, savouring the moment with others and having access to a game is an interest and right that many women ought to have.  
There are movements and women’s organizations campaigning for rights to watch including the Asian Football Confederation.
“So far as the AFC is concerned, there should be no sex discrimination regarding the presence of men and women at stadiums,” AFC Director of National Team competition Shin Mangal was quoted as saying by the Shiite news agency Shafaqna.
Then there are those brave female fans who will go to any lengths to attend the matches despite the ban. These include dressing up as boys and men and sneaking into the matches undetected with risk of being arrested.
In 2006 a brilliant Iranian movie  “Offside” detailed the struggles of young, female football fans. It was the story of six young women who were detained as they tried to attend a victorious World Cup qualifying match in Azadi Stadium. It accurately portrayed their interest, knowledge and love for the sport was just as intense as that of the male officers guarding them.
The movie drew critical acclaim and Director Jafar Panahi stated that he was inspired by his own daughter to make the film. He hoped it would “push the limits in Iran and help women”.
The movie ends happily with the six young women escaping detention as the celebrations in Tehran reach a climax and the officers are too distracted.
“Shirin was a Canary” (2012) is a new film from Iran about a young woman who is so football-obsessed that she is expelled from school.
There is a cultural acceptance of women enjoying and playing football in Iran.
In sping 2012 there was much discussion that the ban to be lifted for the AFC U-16 championships being held in Tehran in September and October.  Unfortunately, there were no developments and Iranian women are still not permitted to attend games.
With some luck, continued pressure and a new decision by the conservative establishment, they will be able to appreciate and enjoy live matches as well.
“They think our minds will be poisoned if we go to football, that we will hear shouting that will offend us and will see the players' legs that will horrify us. They live in their cities, Qom and Mashhad and they never come out to see what life is like for us. We are a young people, we are modern, we don't need protecting. It's ridiculous. But they can't hide us away forever. We'll continue going to the matches whether they let us in or not. We're determined." -Noushin Najafi, Iranian footballer


World Cup qualifier: A battle for Iranian women’s rights

By James M. Dorsey
Fatma Iktasari second from left) and Shabnam Kazimi (second from right) defy ban on women (Source:  http://bahal31.persianblog.ir)
When Iran beat favourite South Korea this week in a 2014 World Cup qualifier, it was not the only battle being fought in Tehran’s Azadi stadium. So was the fight for the right of women to attend soccer matches in the Islamic Republic.
Fatma Iktasari and Shabnam Kazimi, dressed in the men’s clothes they wore to disguise themselves and illegally enter the stadium to watch the match, showed the victory sign in a picture published on an Iranian blog after the match. They were posing together with male friends and an Iranian flag.
A poem accompanying the picture read:
“Heroes, warriors
Dream one day of a workshop with the kids in the ‘freedom’ gym
The name ‘Iran’ did not vanish until the moment of victory and yelling
The days of Good Hope to India
My people even a little bit happy, happiness experienced once again
I was glad that we were always on their side.”
The two women’s act of defiance like an earlier apparent willingness by the Iranian soccer federation to allow women into stadium for Asian Football Confederation (AFC) championship matches this summer sparked significant debate on Iranian social media networks with many participants praising the two women’s courage.
Their protest highlighted the schizophrenic conditions of women’s soccer in the Islamic republic where women, properly dressed in line with Islamic precepts, are allowed to play soccer in front of all-women audiences but are banned from entering an all-men stadium as spectators.
The protest also revived an effort in the middle of the last decade by women soccer fans to defy the ban by dressing up as men. The campaign was depicted in Offside by filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who is currently serving a six year jail sentence for “creating propaganda against the Iranian republic.” Mr. Panahi, a key figure in Iran's cinematic New Wave movement, was further banned from film making, travel and speaking to the media for a period of 20 years.
Offside described the fictionalized arrest by police of six young women and girls who smuggled themselves dressed as men into Tehran's stadium to watch Iran's national team play Bahrain. A more recent movie, Shirin Was A Canary, recounts the tale of a girl who is expelled from school for her love of soccer
The campaign waged albeit by a small group of women prompted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lift the ban in 2006 in a move that was overruled in an early public disagreement between the two men.
Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani argued at the time that "women looking at a man's body even if not for the sake of gratification is inappropriate.”
Some sources close to the Iranian government believe however that Mr. Khamenei may as yet relent on the issue of women’s attendance at soccer matches in advance of next year’s presidential election. “Given the economic situation, Khamenei needs to give social groups something,” one source said.
Solmaz Sharif, the founder of Shirzanan, an on-line Farsi-language women’s sports website created after she was refused a license to establish a magazine, highlighted in a recent commentary in The Huffington Post the inherent contradictions in Iranian policy after the women’s volleyball team was allowed to compete in front of mixed gender audience at the London Olympics.
“Although the Iranian government has permitted some women's teams to participate in international competitions, it greatly restricts their participation in domestic games. For instance, no men are allowed to watch women's games in Iran. This raises a few questions about the intentions of Iranian sporting officials: If it is "Islamic enough" for women to play in front of global audiences, then why they can't play in Iran? And such international participation doesn't meet Islamic requirements, did the Iranian government merely agree with it to avoid international pressure?” Ms. Sharif wrote.
Hopes were dashed this summer when contrary to expectation the AFC failed to impose its standards by insisting that women would be allowed into the stadium to watch AFC Under-16 Championship matches that were being played in Iran.
The hopes were sparked when AFC Director of National Team competition Shin Mangal was quoted by Shiite news agency Shafaqna as saying that "so far as AFC is concerned, there should be no sex discrimination regarding the presence of men and women at stadiums."
The AFC said it had received assurances from Ali Kaffashian, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (IRIFF) that it would comply with AFC regulations. The AFC quoted Mr. Kaffashian as saying at the drawing of the groups for the tournament that the IRIFF is “fully ready to follow all the requirements and instructions from AFC.”
The Iranian soccer boss repeated his position in remarks to Iranian reformist newspaper Sharq. In an editorial the newspaper said "the youth championships could create a great change in Iranian football. They are an excellent opportunity."
An estimated 1,000 women in a rare instance were allowed last year into the Azadi stadium to commemorate the death of Nasser Hejazi, an internationally acclaimed defender who became in his last days an outspoken critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s economic policy.
The ceremony turned into an anti-Ahmadinejad protest with the crowds shouting “Hejazi, you spoke in the name of the people” “Goodbye Hejazi, today the brave are mourning.”
In late 1997 in Tehran, some 5,000 women stormed the stadium in protest the ban on women to celebrate revolutionary Iran’s first ever qualification for the World Cup finals. The protest erupted barely a month after the election of Mohammed Khatami as president at a time of anticipated liberalization. Men and women danced in the streets together to blacklisted music and sang nationalist songs as they did six months later when Iran defeated the United States.
“In terms of freedom of expression, soccer stadiums are nearly as important as the Internet in Iran now. The protest is more secure there because the police can't arrest thousands of people at once. State television broadcasts many matches live and the people use it as a stage for resistance. They're showing banners to the cameras and chanting protest songs which is why some games are broadcast without sound now,” says an Iranian sports journalist.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.