Iran might be continuing to debate whether its women should be allowed to attend men's football matches, but while their future in the stands is uncertain, Iran's women appear assured of a great deal to look forward to on the field.
The Iranian women's national team, created just last year, hosted their first foreign visitors last Friday, when a club side from Berlin in Germany, Aldersimspor, played out a 2-2 draw in Tehran.
Although only women were allowed to watch the game, and the players were covered with both a headscarf and long tracksuit bottoms in accordance with the country's customs, the mere fact that it took place was rightly hailed as a huge development.
FIFA women's football committee member, Cristina Ramos of the Philippines, was asked to serve as match commissioner for the game after heading FIFA's delegation of instructors at the Com-Unity seminar.
The development of women's soccer came in for close attention at the three-day event, which ended with pledges of support for its future development and Khadejeh Sepanji, head of women's football in the Iran Football Federation, bullishly predicting "exciting and prosperous things in the future".
Sepanji continued: "There are many women and girls who would like to take part and, although our team has only outfit going for just one year, we have already finished runners-up at a West Asian tournament in Jordan.
"We also just had 22 teams from the provinces competing for the first time in a national competition. It was so exciting and we couldn't believe the interest. They were so much better than we had expected, they had great skills and good knowledge of tactics."
Moving the ball forward
It was also resolved after the completion of the Com-Unity course that FIFA would lend a hand by looking into plans to help with more coaches for women's football in Iran.
As Ramos said: "The doors have been opened and this is very encouraging. We need to move the ball forward and to score many goals for Iranian football."
The Com-Unity course was also attended by the national coach Branko Ivankovic, who will be leading his side to the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ finals in Germany next month, and who participated in a lively discussion about the relationship between football officials and the media in Iran.
He called for support for the country's team as they finalised their preparations for the trip to Germany, but said the role of the media should not be supercilious. "We are not looking for flattery," Ivankovic insisted, "but there is also scope for a positive and amiable atmosphere around the team."