Iranian women footballers steal limelight despite defeat


New Delhi : Covered from head to toe, Iranian women footballers Saturday displayed some grit and determination and stole the limelight despite their 1-3 loss to hosts India in the first round qualifier of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup at the Devi Lal Sports Complex in Gurgaon.

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Under the Iranian law, women footballers must cover their body right from head to toe. And it was no different Saturday, as the Iranian eves in their special red veil gave the hosts a tough fight.

Egged on by some 100 Iranian girls, the visitors, who are new to international football, impressed the packed stadium with some good skill and athleticism.

“They are new to international football. But their skill and fitness level surprises me. We have to be very careful when we face them in our return leg,” said India coach Premkanta Singh.

Iran is participating in the AFC women’s championship for the first time. They recently took part in the West Asian Women’s Football Tournament and finished second.

But the Iranian women footballers are yet to be listed in the FIFA rankings. The Indian team is placed 11th in Asia and 55th in the world.

It has been a long battle for the Iranian women to venture into international football. But after a prolonged struggle back home, they have finally managed to get a permission to play.

“It has been a long journey for us. We have struggled a lot to get permission to play football, which is a passion for many girls back home,” said Katayoun Khosrowayor, a member of the Iranian team.

Their first match was held April 28, 2006 and players wore specially designed sports headscarves. Only women were allowed into the stadium to watch the game.

“The score line today is not a factor for us. It is just a beginning and the present team will be the cradle of the future of women’s football in future,” she added.

Katayoun also said that gradually Iran’s women team will play more football, which would help them to get listed in the Fifa rankings.

“This is just a beginning for us. Women’s football is gradually coming up in Iran. And the more we play, the more talent we will have,” she said.

Katayoun also promised that India would have to face a tough fight when they play the first round of the qualifier in Tehran Oct 27.