Series host Shima Oliaee found soccer was a portal to her mother’s home country: Iran. Why did soccer mean so much to her? Shima and her mom meet a young Iranian woman and soccer fan, who’s been named an enemy of the state.
Growing up Iranian American, Shima Oliaee found her mother didn’t talk much about where she came from. Watching soccer, though, was a portal to Iran, a place that was in large part a mystery. Shima delves into the stories she didn’t hear growing up: Iran's mandated modernization and how soccer played a role, the women-led 1979 revolution, and her parents’ mistaken-identity love story. Shima and her mom meet Zeinab Sahafy, a young Iranian women and avid soccer fan whose love of the game led to her being named an enemy of the state.
A new generation defies the stadium ban. They cross-dress as men and go public on social media. They face dire consequences and also a brief victory. Pink Card connects the 2022 uprising to the longer struggle for women.
(Warning: this episode includes description of a suicide). The newest generation of Iranian girl soccer fans take a bold new approach. They cross-dress as men to sneak into Azadi Stadium, documenting their rebellion live on social media - an irreverent middle finger to the government. One of those girls is Zeinab Sahafy, from Episode 1. One night four of her friends are arrested and she flees for her life. Another girl, still in the country, loses her life. In a moment described as “a miracle,” Iran’s regime relents on its ban and thousands of women enter the stadium. We end Pink Card wondering how this hard-won slice of freedom connects to the 2022 historic protests and a possible new revolution, more than 40 years after Shima’s teenage mother left home.
ESPN Daily: Pink Card: Women, Life, Freedom
When the United States needed to beat Iran to make the knockout stage of this World Cup, the story of the ongoing protests in Iran captured the attention of American media. How thousands of protesters had been arrested and hundreds had been killed while fighting for the basic rights of women. How players on the Iranian national team were being threatened for being sympathetic to that cause. And how the country’s tangled history with America now seeped into the soccer being played. But then America won…Iran was sent home… and it felt like an even bigger story — the story of how specifically important soccer has been to this movement, a movement spanning generations of women in Iran — was lost. So today, we ask Shima Oliaee, host of the upcoming 30 for 30 podcast series, PINK CARD, to tell us about that story…and why it resonates right now, more than ever. You can listen to Pink Card here: https://30for30podcasts.com/
The new regime in Iran strips women’s rights, bit by bit. When women are banned from the national soccer stadium, it becomes a battleground.
This episode starts with two questions: If women equally led the 1979 revolution, why were their rights stripped away first? How does this happen to an emboldened part of the population? At first, the women fight back, chanting “Azadi! Azadi!” [translation: “Freedom! Freedom!”] in the streets until the clerics back down. But in a story told by legendary writer and activist Mehrangiz Kar, women’s rights erode one by one – leading us to the nationwide ban on women at stadiums. This is when Iran's national soccer stadium becomes a battleground.
An activist group, the "White Scarves,” meets in secret. The women use high-profile soccer games to get press. Their capers get them into the stadium, but they face grave danger.
One game sets off a movement. In 1997 Iran surprisingly makes the World Cup in the last three minutes of play against Australia. When Iran's national team gets helicoptered into Azadi Stadium to celebrate, women are asked to stay home. They don't listen, and thousands rush the stadium. This is the origin story of the White Scarves, a group that uses international soccer matches to defy the regime and take back their country. As the White Scarves gain international fame, they face grave danger at home.
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