Football Under Cover

Football Under Cover
Director: David Assman, Ayat Najafi

Germany, 2008, 86 min., documentary
Teheran, April 2006. Iran’s national women’s team and a local Berlin women’s football team are playing their first official friendly match today, before a crowd of more than a thousand cheering women. The atmosphere at the stadium is electric and super-charged with girl power. Outside the stadium, a few men peer through the fencing, trying to catch a glimpse of the proceedings, because on this day, men are barred from the game.

Although their only desire was to play football together, it has taken the young women of both teams a whole year of bitter struggle to get where they are today. Theirs has been a battle against testosterone, arbitrariness and oppression. This film accompanies Marlene, left-back of the Kreuzberg club BSV AL-Dersimpor, and Iranian player Niloofar on their journey. Niloofar, who, as she says, does whatever she wants, dreams of Beckham and helps Marlene plan the big event. In Germany preparations are also under way and the girls set about learning Iranian codes of behaviour. They don’t just want to play a game; they want to get to know each other and find out what it’s like to wear a headscarf on the pitch, says Susu who, like many of the girls in the team, is Muslim herself. An eight-hour flight away, Narmila and her mother kick a ball about on the street, their chadors and headscarves fluttering in the breeze. Although it’s impractical, they manage.

In spite of the game being postponed time and again, and the fact that the women are not able to play in Asia’s largest football stadium as planned, but on a dried up old pitch; and although Niloofar is forbidden from taking part in the game – for reasons which nobody understands – the girls refuse to be browbeaten. And, when the big day arrives, there’s singing and dancing in the grandstands. This 90-minute film is more than just a football game. The desire for self-determination and equality is being expressed here and one thing is clear: change is possible.
Section: Identity

Screenplay: Corinna, David, Marlene, Valerie Assman, Ayat Najafi

Dir. of Photography: Niclas Reed Middleton, Anne Misselwitz

Producer: Patrik Merkle, Helge Albers, Corinna ir Marlene Assman, Roshanak Behesht Nejdad

Cast: Niloofar Basir, Narmila Fathi, Sanna El-Agha, Marlene Assmann, Ayat Najafi, Hüseyin Karaduman, Paraskewi Boras