Shiva Amini, 33, has a remarkable record of playing more than 40 matches and scoring 19 goals with the Iranian women’s national futsal team. After putting an end to her professional sports career, she became a vocal advocate of women's rights and drew attention to the problems plaguing Iranian sports.
In an interview with IranWire, Amini recounted the time when she started playing football when Iranian girls were banned from this sport. She also spoke about the sexual harassment she experienced as an accomplished sportswoman and about the increased state interference in sports.
Amini said she started playing football in the streets with young boys of her age. She tried hard to look like a boy and used the male nickname Shahin.
"I did not want to deny my gender, but I saw that boys had more freedom, and I wanted to experience that freedom,” she said.
"I was born in a country where women had no rights whatsoever. It was not acceptable for a girl to play football, go to the gym, ride a bike or even a motorcycle. However, I experienced all of these things, and I was arrested, detained, threatened, and harassed for some of my choices.”
“I Entered a Dirty and Ugly World”
Amini said she was “not interested” in joining Iran's national women's futsal team.
"I was a city kid and played in the league. I became the tournament's Miss Goal and the main player in my team,” she said.
“My troubles began when I was invited to the national team. I entered a dirty and ugly world that had been created by the football federation. I realized that I had to have a relationship [with a sports official] to get ahead in the national team, in addition to my technique and tactics.”
Amini said that she was subjected to inappropriate jokes and unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature by staff and managers at the national football federation.
She cited an encounter with the then-vice president of the federation, Mehdi Taj, who now heads the organization. Amini and another player visited him to discuss the financial troubles of the national team.
“He talked about everything except football,” she said. “He was flirting with us.”
And during a meeting with the head of the federation’s disciplinary committee, this man told her, “Stay with me, I will solve your problems.”
Amini also recalled an incident with Ali Kafashian, then-president of the football federation. When she asked for better pay for female players, the official made a derogatory comment about their spending habits.
Regarding the issue of politics in sports, Amini recalled that the federation sent a van to the national team’s training camp in 2009 and forced the players to vote. The players were also obliged to meet with the newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In recent years, Amini has made numerous attempts to expose the influence of the Islamic Republic’s policies and ideologies in sports, but her efforts have often fallen on deaf ears in international institutions.
In the interview, Amini noted that the “Islamic Republic's lobbies” are spending large amounts of money to advance their goals in international organizations.
"We know that the Islamic Republic has silenced everyone with money. I don't want to disclose names, but we know that the Iranian people's money is being used to fund lobbies against the Iranian people,” she said.
"As long as the Islamic Republic continues to spend money and as long as its managers remain fearful, our work will remain difficult,” Amini added.