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Getting the ending we want: Film-making, keeping records, and sport and development

Getting the ending we want: Film-making, keeping records, and sport and development

Football Under Cover, a documentary about two women’s football teams meeting to play in Teheran, Iran, is an inspiring story. But is it also evidence that recording our goals helps us to achieve them?

The "Football Under Cover" trailer.

In 2006, more than 1000 women filled a stadium in Teheran to see the first ever official women’s football match in the country. Men peered through the fences outside, only able to tell the score by listening to the cries of joy or disappointment from the women inside. A major event for a country where women’s football had previously been restricted to parks or gardens; permissible, so long as it remained private, amateur, just another way to fill the time.

This event was organised by Marlene and David Assmann, film and football enthusiasts with a passion for equal rights and a firm belief that change is possible. The pair met filmmaker Ayat Najafi at the Berlin Talent Competition in 2005, where they presented their films on women’s football. Ayat told the others about a woman’s football team in Iran, and how they had never been able to play a game. And so the idea came about: a team from Berlin would travel to Iran, and challenge them to a match.

Increasing the pressure
As soon as the idea was formed, all of them agreed that it would be filmed. The documentary which resulted, ‘Football under Cover’, released in 2008 by ‘Flying Moon’, is a real story of their journey, a film which did not know its own ending as it was being made.

It quickly became evident that the fact it was being filmed might well make a difference. When discussions with the authorities were caught on camera, for example, it felt more likely that they would be taken seriously. As David explains, ‘We suspected that we wouldn’t be able to rely on the authorities agreeing. But if we caught that agreement on film, perhaps that would increase the pressure on them to stick to arrangements that they had made.’

This also held true for the girls themselves. The film shows us that things were not always easy. The match was delayed, and delayed again. Access was never granted to the main football stadium they wanted to play in. One of the best players stopped playing. Yet all of these were hurdles in a story which they were determined to see end well. When things felt ‘pretty hopeless’, says Marlene, we thought ‘we can't just give up like this and we're not going to let others decide whether the game should take place or not.’

Records for results 
The film won the International Film Prize in Berlin in 2008, as well as the Teddy Award for best documentary in the same year. It stands as an inspiring example of the power of co-operation and sport.

On top of this, it is another example of how voicing our goals and seeking to create a record- of whatever variety- may not only provide crucial information for the future, but also make an important difference at the time. For those of us working in sport and development, it’s a reminder about careful monitoring. Painstaking at times, yes, but always worth it for the ending.


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Beth Davyson


Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 23:00