Covering Iran’s top national football league is something no sports photographer wants to miss. But in a country where women are banned from entering football stadiums to watch matches played by men, female photographers don’t have a chance.

Parisa Pourtaherian, however, did not allow the ban to stand in her way when the new season of the national league started last month. During a match in Vatani stadium in the northern city of Ghaemshahr, she climbed up on a nearby rooftop to cover it anyway – making her the first female photographer in the country to have covered a national league match.

“I was in the area from three hours before the match began, searching for a house with a rooftop where I could take my pictures,” Pourtaherian, 26, told the Guardian.

“I tried to persuade the owners to let me in but none accepted for almost the entire period of the first half, but at the end one owner let me go up on their rooftop.”

It was a match between Ghaemshahr’s Nassaji Mazandaran football club, one of Iran’s oldest, and the country’s top tourist destination Isfahan’s Zob Ahan, a club supported by the city’s steel company.

Pourtaherian said the idea came from the league’s last season, when she had seen photos of people watching the match from nearby rooftops. “I thought maybe I can go to Ghaemshahr for the new season and take photos from one of the rooftops,” she recalled.

“Because of the building’s position and a big tree obscuring the view to some parts of the field I couldn’t get all the photos I wanted, but still I’m happy that I was able to cover the second half,” she said.

Pourtaherian’s presence on the nearby rooftop and her long-focus lens were noticed by fellow male photographers on the ground, who also took shots of her, publishing them on the national news agencies. Isna news agency, one of the country’s popular semi-official news agencies, included a photo showing her on the rooftop among photos released by its photographer during the match.

The agencies’ photos went viral inside Iran, where the ban on women entering football stadiums is a hot political topic, particularly after Tehran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, in a big PR campaign, announced a relaxation on its own restrictive policies.

A number of women have been arrested or removed from stadiums in recent years after authorities realised they had disguised themselves as men to enter the stadium.

Offside, a 2006 Iranian film by prominent director Jafar Panahi – who has been sentenced to six years in jail and banned from filmmaking for 20 years – features a group of girls attempting to enter a stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match.

“For some sporting events, such as volleyball, basketball and athletics matches, restrictions have been eased, and women have been allowed to enter stadiums, but when it comes to football matches, the restrictions are still in place,” said Pourtaherian.

During the recent World Cup in Russia, Iran for the first time allowed women to enter Tehran’s gigantic 100,000-seats Azadi stadium to watch games on screens.

Pourtaherian studied industrial design at Tehran University but her interest in sports made her pursue photography. She currently works for Photoaman news agency, which specialises in covering sporting events. She has become established in Iran and has covered games in other countries such as Sweden, Germany and Austria.

But covering a football match at home from inside a stadium remains a dream. “My first wish is for us – women – to be allowed to cover matches in my country’s big football stadiums alongside my male colleagues,” she said.

“I also have another big personal wish, and that is to be able to cover – even at least for one time in my life – a match by my childhood favourite Manchester United in the Old Trafford stadium. I’ll do everything for this dream to come true.”

Source » theguardian