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Football must stand against Iran’s discrimination and abuse of women

FIFA

9/11 will live forever as an historic date. It now has further significance and a similar level of regret attached to it, following the death of a female football fan in Iran.

It is the date FIFA announced that a delegation would be sent to the Iranian capital to meet with local officials. They would oversee the processes behind Iran’s decision to allow women to attend the World Cup qualifying match against Cambodia in October.

The decision is not to be confused with any progressive thinking that may finally have seen the West Asian nation join the majority of the world in the present. The permission granted to women to attend the qualifier is nothing more than a clear reaction to international sentiment and pressure after the tragic events of September 2nd and the death of Iranian woman Sahar Khodayari.

Vast sums of money and significant time will be wasted on what is unfortunately a necessary visit to one of the AFC’s most notable and successful members; to effectively deal with what is a most fundamental human rights violation.

The delegation will arrive shortly and carries with it the message of the united football world. One protesting Iran’s consistent refusal to admit half its population into its stadiums to enjoy the beautiful game.

According to Iranian authorities, 29-year-old Khodayari was a criminal. Her crime was a desire to watch football. As such, she broke the law, disguised herself as a male as best she could and attempted to gain admittance to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in March.

Her hope was to watch Esteghlal, a club with a predominately blue strip; her club. Wearing a blue wig and a long trench coat, Khodayari bravely attempted to blend in with thousands of men outside the stadium, desperate to be discreet and innocuous.

Sadly, her bid to defy what has been a mandated ban on female attendance at football matches for over 40 years failed. She was arrested and detained.

There is no doubt that the incident would have drawn little or no attention around the globe had it not been for what followed. Most likely just a court appearance and a dishing out of what the local authorities saw as an appropriate punishment for a woman wanting to watch a game of football.

Khodayari was informed in the lead up to her court date that the likely punishment was to be six months in prison. Comprehending the sheer idiocy of such a punishment is difficult for those living in free and open societies around the globe.

Through either fear, terror or protest, Sahar Khodayari set herself alight on the courthouse steps outside the building where she was to receive her punishment. She died days later, was buried somewhere around the 6th or 7th of September before authorities announced her death on the 9th.

Tributes flooded in for the woman who would become known as the ‘Blue Girl’ and Iranian citizens held a candlelit vigil on September 12 in memory of the football fan.

Amnesty International labelled the events as displaying Iran’s “appalling contempt for women’s rights in the country.”

It is a contempt that appears finally under pressure, yet one that required an innocent women’s courage and sacrifice to bring the full extent of the horrific truths of Iranian injustice and discrimination to the surface.

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s 2006 documentary Offside raised awareness of the issue and captured the story of a group of women detained whilst attempting to enter a qualifying match. Sadly, it appears political and social will has only now arrived.

No doubt, Iranian authorities will allow some women into the match against Cambodia, hoping that external pressure will be quelled and any serious repercussions from Khodayari’s death avoided.

Australia’s newly formed body Women in Football has asked FFA Chairman Chris Nikou to make a compelling statement; calling for a boycott of Iranian football should FIFA take little or no action before its October deadline.

As of yet, Australian football has not indicated that it would be prepared to take such a step, despite others calling for change.

Jesper Moller, president of the Danish Football Association called for sanctions against Iran should it continue to ban women from matches. He said, “The rules are clear. Discrimination cannot be tolerated.”

Despite Moller’s comments holding a fundamental human and political truth, a clear shift in Iran’s policies will require consistent international pressure and a firm hand.

Considering their utter disregard for the human dignity of women, an altered view around who and who cannot attend football matches will not be formed lightly.

It is up to all of us to remember Sahar Khodayari and demand change.

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Football Queensland begin Female Football Week celebrations

Football Queensland have begun their state-wide celebration of Female Football Week, commemorating the game’s proud past, present and future.

The annual celebrations have heightened significance this year, in what is the centenary season of women’s football in Queensland.

“This year’s Female Football Week is a great opportunity to recognise and reflect on the extremely important role of women and girls in football’s past, present and especially its future,” FQ President Ben Richardson said.

“The incredible digital history museum FQ launched last week gives us all insights into the remarkable story of the women’s game here in Queensland, which kicked off with the momentous first public match at the Gabba on 24 September 1921.

“We are proud to bring greater attention to the 100-year anniversary by widely releasing our centenary season logo, which is another example of FQ’s commitment to embracing the game’s history and diversity.”

The governing body will release a series of videos this week showcasing the stories of past, present and future Queensland and Australian footballing heroes.

The state’s first Matildas captain, Sue Monteath, will be featured in the opening video.

Football Queensland will also shine a light on several ‘Women’s Football Champions’ who have contributed to the game and helped provide girls with opportunities at a grassroots level.

“This initiative gets to the core of what Female Football Week is all about by recognising those who share FQ’s passion for delivering inclusive, high-quality participation opportunities,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 approaching, it is more important than ever that the community unites behind FQ’s message that women and girls are the future.

“We made that clear in the Women and Girls Strategy 2021-2023 that was presented to political, sporting and football leaders at Parliament House on Tuesday.

“FQ is driving progress towards unlocking Queensland’s FIFA Women’s Cup 2023 legacy and Female Football Week continues to make a strong contribution to that journey.”

Female Football Week will conclude on the 8th of March.

England FA launches women’s football coaching initiative

The English Football Association (FA) has launched the Coaching Excellence Initiative, a women’s football coaching development programme.

The 18-month programme has been designed to develop and connect high-performance coaches in elite women’s football.

14 coaches have been selected for the inaugural programme. Between 14 to 18 coaches will participate in the programme each season with 75 per cent of participants to be female.

The FA said that the Coaching Excellence Initiative would provide a bespoke and high-quality coach development experience.

“The Coaching Excellence Initiative is central to our commitment to see the top coaches in the women’s game become the very best they can, providing them with the development and learning opportunities to achieve their potential and fulfil their ambitions,” Head of Women’s Coach Development at FA, Audrey Cooper said.

“Living well beyond the 18-month course, it will provide the coaches with a support network to share their experiences as they continue in their career.”

“This programme will also support our broader ambition to normalise women in football coaching, shining a light each year on aspirational, relatable and credible female role models for future generations to be inspired by.”

“Whether you are female or male, it’s my belief that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a coach in the women’s game.”

The first edition of the programme began in August 2020 and has featured virtual small group meet-ups and one-to-one mentoring.

Australian football coach and Bristol City manager, Tanya Oxtoby is among the Coaching Excellence Initiative participants.

“I applied to The FA’s CEI programme to continue to develop myself as a manager, network with likeminded people within the women’s game and to challenge my way of thinking,” Oxtoby said.

“The programme has been extremely useful as its focused on skills and qualities which do not normally feature within technical coaching courses.”

“It’s provided me with a network of support in very strange times and it’s changed the way I think about my way of working and how I can reach my own potential moving forward.”

Other participants include England U17 Women’s National Head Coach, Gemma Grainger, Manchester United WSL Academy Manager, Charlotte Healy and Aston Villa WFC Head Coach, Gemma Davies.

 

Optus Sport to show UEFA Women’s Euros in 2022

Optus Sport have announced they have obtained the rights to broadcast the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament to Australian viewers.

The competition will feature five of the six top ranked teams in the world, giving Australian fans the opportunity to see what the Matildas will be up against in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Optus Sport has now acquired the rights to both the men’s and women’s versions of the upcoming European Championships.

Head of TV and Content at Optus Sport, Corin Dimopoulos, said of the announcement: “No matter what the code, every year we are continuing to observe exponential growth in women’s sport across the globe, and we saw this as a terrific opportunity to continue our investment in this market.”

“We had tremendous success streaming the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, have seen great interest in the Barclays Women’s Super League and are continuing to look into acquiring future women’s football leagues and tournaments,” he said.

UEFA Events Marketing Director, Guy-Laurent Epstein, stated: “We are delighted to welcome Optus Sport as our official broadcaster of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 in Australia.

“This deal now means they will transit both the UEFA men’s and women’s European Championships in the next two years, providing unprecedented coverage of both tournaments in Australia,” he concluded.

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