By Tom Degun in Singapore
August 15 - Shahrzad Mozafar, the coach of the Iranian girl’s team at the Summer Youth Olympic Games, told insidethegames that she was happy to talk about something other than the team’s clothing after her side claimed a 1-0 win over Papa New Guinea in their second match in Group A courtesy of an early second half strike by Fatemeh Ardestani.
The win mean that Iran qualify from the group stages despite their 4-2 defeat at the hands of Turkey in the first match of the competition but the team’s achievements on the pitch have been overshadowed by a row off it regarding what they are allowed to wear.
Iran originally withdrew from competing at the Games when FIFA ruled that they could not play in headwear during the tournament because it broke the laws of the game.
The decision that caused worldwide controversy and FIFA were accused of racism as well as religious discrimination.
However, Ali Kaffashian, the President of Iran’s Football Federation (IFF), held talks with the organisation and reached a compromise whereby a new set of clothing was designed that still covers the players heads in accordance with Islamic custom but does not break the laws of the game.
There were still fears that Iran would not take part when several officials recently objected to the new kit, which features a modest ensemble of pants, long sleeves, and high knee socks, with a cap that covers their hair.
However, the team have shrugged off the whirlwind of publicity to progress to the next stage of the football tournament and Mozafar, who was hoisted into the air by her team following the win, said it made a pleasant change to get questions about football rather than what the team is wearing.
She said: "I prefer to talk about football rather than what we are wearing because we have come here to play football.
"Everyone has asked about the uniform and not about football before this match but I want to talk about football as we are here to play football.
"We are so happy to win because we started badly but got better throughout the match.
"We were delighted when the goal went in as we deserved to win the match."
Mozafar (pictured) revealed that the team is not a disadvantage because their thick clothing covers their entire body and said that they do not consider it unfair that they wear it.
She said: "Actually, the players are use to playing in the uniform because we always play in them and we don’t even know what it feels like to play without them.
"I really just what to thank Mr [Sepp] Blatter and the whole of FIFA for letting us come to this Olympics and play with these people.
"I really appreciate it.
"This is such a great opportunity for my players because this is the Olympics.
"Today is our first big international win and it is so important for Iran.
"Women’s football and women’s sport in Iran is not big at all but things like this can get us support from the federation.
"They will see that we are not bad at all and get behind us and that will help women’s sport and women’s football in Iran grow."
Mozafar continued that although the team is unlikely to win the gold medal in Singapore, they are dreaming of being on the podium.
She said: "I don’t think we can get a gold medal.
"That would be really difficult but I wish we could get one medal like maybe a bronze.
"It is nice to think about that and not the uniform."
Goal scorer Ardestani added: "For me, I’m here to play football and to concentrate on that."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
August 2010: Exclusive - Blatter delighted to see Iran compete at Youth Olympics
August 2010: Blatter to attend Iranian girls football team opening match in Singapore
May 2010: Exclusive - FIFA lift Olympic dress ban on Iranian women's team
April 2010: Blatter set to face tough questions in Iran after hijab ban
April 2010: Exclusive - Iran replaced by Thailand over Olympic hijab row