The Battle for Hijab

Many Iranian female athletes take part in the world stage while observing their Hijab and depict that their will for doing what they like cannot be subdued by made-up obstacles against their freedom of choice and perhaps derisive and ignorant ridicule. <b

-We are determined to play very well not only with Russia but also with other teams and achieve good results.

-Here, we became acquainted with new aspects of futsal and learned new things about it.

Niloofar Ardalan :

My name is Niloofar Ardalan. I’m married and have a son named Radan. I was born in 1985 and started playing futsal as an amateur in 1996, but now I play professional futsal. I also play football. I’ve been playing on both Iran's national women football team and national women fusal team since 2005. I’m also the captain of the national football team.

Formally, my playing football started in 1996. But, before that, I used to play football with my father in our house’s yard. Well, I was a girl and there were some restrictions for me. But, when women’s football was launched as a sport in 1996, I started to play football under the supervision of Ms. Amirshaghaghi who was my first coach. I’ve been a member of both national football team and national futsal team since 2000 when they were established.

I think this sport is more attractive than any other sports. Volleyball and basketball are attractive too, but playing football and futsal involves so much excitement. And, this is what brings 120,000 spectators to a stadium. Why isn’t there so much excitement for other sports? Why other sports can’t attract so many spectators?

Fereshteh Karimi :

My name is Fereshteh Karimi. I’m 23 years old. I’m a member of the national team and I study physical education.

I’ve been playing professional football and futsal for 9 years. In 2005, when the first national team played in the West Asian Games, I joined the national team. First, I played football and then I started playing futsal. We played futsal with Ukraine and Russia. We drew 2-2 with Russia, which is the fourth top team in the world. I believe this shows the capabilities of our female athletes and the progress they’ve made.

Shahrzad Mozaffar:

I believe when you are determined and know what your goal is, marginal issues become less important. I think we’ve been able to prove this to others as they have been forced to accept us the way we are. Now, in most sports, it’s quite clear that Iran’s women athletes prefer what dressing code.

Fereshteh Karimi :

On the sport field, we don’t really feel we are any less or more than our rivals. I think our hijab is an honor for both us and our country. As we respect both our beliefs and the beliefs of others, I expect them to respect our beliefs.

Niloofar Ardalan :

When we travel to some countries where we’ve never been, they are usually surprised and wonder how we play sports wearing hijab. Somehow, they underestimate us. But, when we start to play, they see how well we play and realize we’ll even have a better future.

My conditions are more difficult than others’. I have a child and my husband is now alone at home. Radan is staying with my mother. Here, I am with my teammates but my husband and child are alone.

Fereshteh Karimi :

All my teammates are the best. They are very kind and friendly. No one wants to harm or annoy anyone else. People often feel competitive. But, competitiveness doesn’t ruin our friendship here.

Shahrzad Mozaffar:

She’s wearing a black headband but others are wearing a white one as if I don’t understand.

Fereshteh Karimi :

We’ve just arrived. We’re on our way from airport to our hotel to get some rest.

-How’s the weather?

It’s really good. I expected it to be much colder.

This booklet is about the teams and their members. It also has some information about the federation’s head and the organizers of the games.

This is a friendly match. It’s a quartet tournament. But, it’s really good experience. Back in February, we played a game with Russia. They are a European team and we’re an Asian team. There are so many differences between us. Since we’ve played with them before, we’ve gained some experience. This kind of games is very useful.

Farideh Shojaei:

We’re in the Victory Day tournament which is held every year around these days. Four teams take part. It’s a quartet tournament. These certificates you see have been prepared by participant countries. Russia hasn’t issued its certificate yet. But, Hungary and Portugal which are participants in this tournament have issued these certificates to Iran’s name and have invited us to take part in future games they hold in their countries.

Our athletes have been playing futsal as a professional sport for 10 years and football for 5-6 years. We took part in Asian games because Mr. Bin Hammam, who was the president of the Asian Football Confederation at the time, was a Muslim and allowed Iranians to take part in the Asian games with Islamic dressing.

Due to our good performance, FIFA granted an advantage to Iran’s team and we were selected as Asia’s representative in the Under-15 Olympics in Singapore.

The opening game was between Iran and Turkey and Mr. Sepp Blatter himself was present there. When he saw our athletes playing with Islamic hijab, he objected. We negotiated and said we could not play without hijab. We told them if they would not allow us to play wearing hijab, we would return home. And, they let us play wearing hijab. After the game, when they saw our athletes played very well, their attitude changed and even when we achieved the fourth place in the Olympics, they registered it in the FIFA books. They all accepted this issue and all FIFA members voted for it.

Last year, when our adult team reached the second phase of qualifiers for the London Olympics, they prevented our athletes from playing on the first day of the games saying they couldn’t play with Islamic hijab.

We really didn’t know what had happened during that time and what decision FIFA had made. We went to the FIFA headquarters in Switzerland. We negotiated with Mr. Sepp Blatter. We took part in the women’s symposium and expressed our ideas. The opposing members which were among the permanent members of FIFA attended the meeting. The chairman of FIFA’s Medical Committee said athletes would face medical problems this way and hijab would create problems for their sweating and their muscles and nerves would not function very well. He said hijab could create physiological problems for them. We had done research on this issue and I, as a physiologist, was sure that hijab would not be a serious health threat to athletes though it might affect their performance.

Shahrzad Mozaffar:

What was really important to me was that our team should display all its capabilities. We had done some exercises and I wanted to see the team’s progress and performance while playing with a strong rival.

After the game became 2-1 for Russia, we piled a lot of pressure on the Russian team. Our team played very well because the Russians could still score one or two more points. But, I’m happy we didn’t lose any more points and I think we have to work more on pressing tactics because it paid off.

When we were departing from Iran, our goal was to defeat Russia. But, we couldn’t use our chances well though we played very well.

Emil Aliyev:

I think it’s really strange for the European people to see that kind of hijab. But, anyway, we know that this is the tradition of your country and your religion. Yes, we were a bit surprised and I think it’s even more difficult to play wearing hijab. It’s a little bit warm. But, your women are really strong.


Their team is really strong. They have a lot of experience. We need to have more experience. Our offending tactics were not very good.

Evgeny Kuzmin:

As you know, futsal is very popular in Iran. Their men’s team is very strong and is Asia’s champion. This will influence the performance of their women’s team and both these teams will make progress.

Dr. Zohreh Haratian:

I’ve been working with this team for a long time now. They are well-prepared now and they behave quite professionally. There’s no need to tell them what diet they should go on. They know what to eat themselves during competitions and exercises, and when they exercise hard. 6-7% carbohydrate in liquid form should be taken by athletes who play medium sports like basketball, football, and futsal, which take more than 60 minutes. Considering our athlete’s dressing and that every athlete has a different level of sweating, we adjust the electrolyte they should take to each individual’s personal level. Each athlete has her own special drink. Some relative measurements like weighing our athletes before and after each game help us to realize how much drink each person needs and how much electrolyte they have lost. And, the level of their carbohydrate intake is constant.

Since the establishment of this team, team members have been practicing with this kind of dressing. We never practice without hijab. During their fitness and bodybuilding exercises our athletes should wear hijab so that they won’t face any difficulties during the games.

Shahrzad Mozaffar:

Victory or loss isn’t very important. We are really pleased with the team’s performance in yesterday’s match. I hope the team will achieve the specified goals on the field. The final result isn’t that significant. Portugal’s team is very strong.


Our supervisor says we need an invoice even when we want to buy some nuts. The federation’s president says that’s OK but the supervisor doesn’t agree.


Now, it’s cloudy but when it’s clear you can see the other six buildings of the seven Stalin Buildings.

-Where’s here?

Niloofar Ardalan :

The Russia University is on the left. On the right, there’s I-don’t-know-what palace. And, here are we. This is Hungary’s team. We’ve got a match with them tomorrow. I hope they catch a cold.

She wants to take a photo with you.

Take a photo with this camera.


Napoleon Bonaparte has said if you think of defeat, you’ll be defeated. So, we think of victory and hope to defeat them.

Shahrzad Mozaffar:

When we entered this tournament, I wanted to see if our athletes could employ on the field what they had practiced. I didn’t want them to use defensive tactics.

Faride Shojaei:

With this dressing, we’ve had the best player in Asia, the best scorer, and the best player in West Asia. We’ve also had the best football and futsal team in West Asia. In qualifiers for the Olympics, we also showed that we can play well with this dressing.

-They are all waiting for you.


We learned a lot from the match between Russia and Portugal. I think we’ve played with Russia 4-5 times. We’re quite familiar with them. We drew 1-1 with them in Tehran and here we lost 2-1 to them. We narrowed the gap between Russia’ team and our team. This was our first match with Portugal. If we play a couple of more games with Portugal, we’ll be able to narrow this gap too.

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