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STO Soccer Film Review: Offside

Like The Great Match, Offside deals more with the political and cultural implications of the world’s most beautiful game than it does with actual soccer. The film concerns a group of Iranian women who want to see a soccer match in Tehran, but are forbidden from attending sporting events by Islamic law. It’s a heavy subject, but a funny, insightful film.

Jafar Panahi, who wrote and directed the film, infuses the story of sexism with hearty humor and a razor sharp wit. For his efforts, Panahi won the Best Director award at Asia’s version of the Oscars. It also finished second for the prestigious grand prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. It is deserving of the awards, too, and it is perhaps one of the best soccer movies of the last three years.

Rather than dictate the costume decisions, Panahi asked each of his actresses to disguise themselves as boys as best they could so their attempts to enter the match in the film would be as realistic as possible. The film has been (of course) banned in Iran (like all of Panahi’s movies) because it’s message of the need for equality between the sexes in Iran.

The chauvinistic Islamic Ayatollahs state women shouldn’t go to sporting events because (1) the male crowd’s foul language (which apparently they shouldn’t have to control) and (2) because the male players’ legs are showing (ditto). But these reasons are really just veiled excuses for their desire to keep women in an inferior position in society.

I would love to see the Islamic fundamentalists’ reaction to the photo of Brandi Chastain celebrating winning the Women’s by tearing off her jersey (which men do regularly) to reveal her sports bra. I would also love to see them finally grant women equal rights. Maybe someday they will and films like Offside can only help them get there sooner.