Al Jazeera Close Up

The Women of Football: Daring to Dream in Iran | Close Up

In Iran, women can’t enter stadiums as spectators, but these Afghan sisters dream of a spot on the sidelines as coaches.

Rozma Ghafouri is a woman on a mission.

“I’m trying to eliminate discrimination. Football is a way to communicate. It’s a bridge,” says the 30-year-old football manager and coach of the men’s football team, Ariana.

Today, she uses the power of sports to get vulnerable refugee boys off the streets of Iran, out of work, into schools and playing football.

She and her sisters work with young refugees and undocumented Afghans, children who remind them of their own past.

Ghafouri fled Afghanistan as a young girl with her family when the Taliban took control of the country in 1996. As children, she and her sisters had to work to support the family.

“No one supported us … Now, I like to be the one to help these kids.”

In a country where women’s participation in football has long been severely restricted – even attending matches has been an issue for more than 40 years – our film follows Rozma and her sisters as they go to extraordinary lengths to manage and coach Ariana.


A film by Katayoun Arsanjani

Cinematography: Gelareh Kiazand

Sound: Babak Akhavan

Local producer: Sara Eslamie

Editors: Arash Zahedi & Antonia Perello

EP: Tierney Bonini