Iranian Soccer Star’s Sister Is Changing Culture For Soccer
Soccer is the most watched sport in the world. When you watch the games on TV, we see the packed stadiums. We hear the chants of the fans, and we hear the explosions of passion when a team scores.
Imagine though, if those stands had no women in them.
For women and girls living in Iran, that was a reality.
The country rewrote their constitution after their revolution in 1979. Within it, it does not entitle women to the same rights as men. There are restrictions on things like higher education, clothing, and of course, sporting events.
Enter Maryam Shojaei. A Iranian woman who is a citizen of Canada. She has been fighting a battle with the government for the past five years to allow women to attend soccer matches in their home country. She is the founder of a Facebook page titled “My Fundamental Right”.
The fight started when Shojaei noticed an increase in female Iranian fans after the 2014 World Cup. She anonymously posted her displeasure about not being able to attend matches. Specifically away matches. Games that do not take place in Iran. In 2018, she disguised herself and attended the matches as a form of protest and as the founder of “My Fundamental Right”, and to cheer on her brother, Iran’s captain Masoud Shojaei.
Masoud Shojaei has also announced his displeasure, saying:
“I think it is the dream of many Iranian women who are football fans. I think if [the ban is lifted] we would have to build a stadium that could hold 200,000 spectators, because we see the flood of passion from our ladies.I hope it happens very, very soon,”
This started the process to lift the 40 year ban, with a little help from FIFA and people around the world, Maryam Shojaei is starting to change misogynistic culture.
She urged FIFA to uphold their stance on gender equality. They sent a group to Iran, and change started to occur.
For the first time ever, female Iranian citizens were allowed to attend a soccer game. It was held in Tehran, Iran’s capital. They watched as Iran clobbered Cambodia, 14-0 in a World Cup qualifier. According to ESPN, the women were allotted 3,500 tickets, all of which sold out in a matter of minutes.
For her actions, Maryam Shojaei is a 2020 honoree of the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award from the ESPYs. The award “celebrates people that have taken risk and used an innovative approach to helping the disadvantaged through the power of sports”.
Shojaei is an inspiration to women and girls around the world. Her fight for equality serves as an inspiration to all, and sparked a movement for Iran’s sports fans.
Photo Credit: Pexels, Twitter, Wiki