An Iranian photojournalist defied a ban that prevents women from entering soccer stadiums during men’s matches, by capturing the game perched atop a nearby roof.
Late last month, Parisa Pourtaherian, 26, set out to cover a national league match at Vatani stadium in the northern city of Ghaemshahr, despite knowing she would be denied access to the pitch.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian women have been banned from attending soccer matches and other male-only sporting events. A partial exception to the ban on women was made in June 2015 when a small number were allowed to watch volleyball in Tehran.
With that in mind, Pourtaherian headed to the stadium three hours before the start of the match, according to the BBC, in an effort to find a vantage point.
“All my focus was on finding a way to take photographs. I looked for a nearby building that I could use, but I couldn’t find one anywhere,” the photographer told the BBC. “I knocked on doors one after another, but I was determined not to get upset when I wasn’t successful. If I had got upset at my first attempt I would never have had this opportunity.”
As the hours went by and the match had begun, Pourtaherian was still knocking on the doors of nearby houses, hoping a homeowner would allow her to snap images of the game from the rooftops.
“Finally, by halftime, I convinced the owners of a house near the stadium to let me go on to their roof,” she said.
Pourtaherian told the Guardian that she got the idea of shooting the match perched on a roof after seeing photographs of people watching last year’s season from nearby rooftops.
“I thought maybe I can go to Ghaemshahr for the new season and take photos from one of the rooftops,” she told the British newspaper. “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.”
Photographers and journalists covering the match from inside the stadium saw Pourtaherian shooting from the rooftop and began taking pictures of her efforts.
“I found the pictures of me on various social networks and some others were sent to me by my friends,” Pourtaherian told the BBC. “People in Iran reacted very positively and all I have received is positive energy.”
Images of Pourtaherian covering the game have gone viral with many social media users praising the photographer’s determination and “drive to get the shot no matter what.”
Pourtaherian told British media that her love of soccer is what started her path in sports photography and her ultimate goal is to one day cover a Manchester United game.
“But my dream is to be able to take photos of Manchester United playing football at Old Trafford at least once in my lifetime,” she told the BBC. “I would also like to be a professional photographer who can travel to different continents to take photos of sports matches around the world.”
During the start of the 2018 World Cup, Iranian fans at the national team’s first game unfurled a banner protesting Iran’s ban on women attending soccer matches back home.
The banner read “#NoBan4Women” and “Support Iranian Women to Attend Stadiums” and it was held aloft during the match against Morocco in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
Women disguising themselves as men have tried to enter soccer stadiums in Iran before, some of them successfully doing so and posting photos of themselves in beards and wigs on social media. A group known on Twitter as OpenStadiums has been pushing for access, describing itself as “a movement of Iranian women seeking to end discrimination (and) let women attend stadiums.”
1/ In #Iran, #journalists & photographers aren't allowed in #football stadiums during the opposite sex's games. But you can't keep a good woman down, and Parisa Pourtaherian wasn't going to let the ban stop her.
Points for ingenuity. pic.twitter.com/EPUO3EVnxg
— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) August 5, 2018