Play the game women, and play it wearing “tight dress”
There are different opinions on how the term “The Beautiful Game” got associated with football. Some say that when Botafogo’s Waldyr Pereira, also known as Didi, had displayed some scintillating football along with his team mates, particularly Vasco da Gama’s Vavá and a certain 17-year-old from Santos Football Club in 1958 World Cup in Sweden, commentator Stuart Hall had apparently used the term in the context for football for the first time. But some football historians cite the name of the English author H. E. Bates who had used the term even earlier in an article titled “Brains in the Feet” published on November 16, 1952 in The Sunday Times. Whatever be the origin of the term, when the game loses its beauty, not just the game of football but the entire world endures the pain.
Football has long been hailed as an expression of humanity. We at Goalden Times always celebrate Football as a way of life, and try to bring out different facets of it. We believe Football has never, and can never harm anyone’s feelings. And that is why we were saddened with the recent cancellation of a football match in a rural village of West Bengal, the spiritual mecca of Indian football. Indranath Mukherjee laments the incidence.
But some local moulavis (Muslim clerics) raised their objection against the women’s football match because the football kits as per them are “too tight” and argued that women should not be wearing tight dresses.
The recent cancellation of a football match in Malda district in West Bengal, India has been a blow to the football romantics who find the game to be a way of life. The members of the Progressive Youth Club of Chandipur village in Malda had plans to celebrate the club’s golden jubilee by organizing a women’s football match between Kolkata XI and North Bengal XI. Some renowned names in Indian women’s football including Indian national team players Krishna Das, Sujata Kar, Arjuna-awardee Santi Mallik, FIFA referee Anamika Sen, captain of Indian national handball team Anita Roy were supposed to grace the occasion with their presence. However, the local administration ordered to cancel the match due to apprehensions of communal tension. Most of the members of the Progressive Youth Club are muslims and the club president Reja Rajir went on record saying that the aim of the match was to motivate girls of the area to play outdoor games. But some local moulavis (Muslim clerics) raised their objection against the women’s football match because the football kits as per them are “too tight” and argued that women should not be wearing tight dresses. Rajir accused Mufti Maqsud, Imam of a local mosque for issuing the threat although the local Imam Maqsud Alam, claimed that they did not issue any fatwa against the match. But the hard truth is that the match had been called off. As per some news reports, representatives of the ruling state government supported the cancellation of the game.
This reminded us of the Jafar Panahi classic Offside where six Iranian girls disguise themselves as boys to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch the 2006 World Cup Asian zone qualifier between Iran and Bahrain but got arrested when their identities get revealed. Ironically enough, the name of the stadium,one of the largest stadiums in the world with a capacity of 120,000, translates to “freedom” in English. Women have been banned to watch football in this stadium since the Islamic revolution of 1979. In 1987, the country’s spiritual and political dictator, Ayatollah Ruhollah Moosavi Khomeini, issued a new fatwa revising the regime’s absolute prohibition of female fandom by allowing football to be shown live in television for the first time in the Islamic era. Speaking through his long white beard, Khomeini decreed that women could watch football on TV but cannot make trips to the testosterone-laden stadium where fans cursed in the foulest and forbidden language. Although the girls in Panahi’s film weren’t able to watch the game, in reality the women in Iran have not been able to let go of their Azadi. Risking severe punishment, some of them have suppressed their breasts, folded away their long hair, dressed in suspiciously baggy clothes to sneak into the stadium.
Earlier this year, 13 teenage boys were executed by ISIS militants for watching the Asian Cup football match between Iraq and Jordan. These young fans were caught watching the game on television in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is controlled by the Islamic State. As per reports, the teenagers were rounded up and publicly executed by a firing squad using machine guns.
One such fatwa with respect to the game of football came in 2012-2013, when the Saudi cleric and popular Salafi-jihadist Suleiman Al-’Alwan, being released from prison after nine years for alleged involvement with al Qaeda, called football players criminals and infidels.
The legal edicts proclaimed by Islamic scholars, known as fatwas, have seen an astronomic growth in the world since the 1980s. One such fatwa with respect to the game of football came in 2012-2013, when the Saudi cleric and popular Salafi-jihadist Suleiman Al-’Alwan, being released from prison after nine years for alleged involvement with al Qaeda, called football players criminals and infidels. He opined that the biggest problem with the game was that it was governed by man-made laws and not religious scriptures. His opinion of football as a “masonic game meant to distance Muslims from their religion and faith, and most of the public that follows is loyal to the infidels” has the potential of turning hundreds of Goalden Times across the world into Charlie Hebdo. There is no end of such ridiculous fatwas on football. Sample this: “Do not play in two halves. Rather, play in one half or three halves in order to completely differentiate yourselves from the heretics, the corrupted and the disobedient.”
When in 2015, in a constitutionally secular nation, we see cancellation of a football match in a village where the villagers were eagerly waiting for the game; we must ask the fundamental question – Who decides what women should wear? If ‘tight dress’ or for that matter bikini objectifies women, doesn’t burka do exactly the same thing? For some, even jeans are not acceptable. The truth is whatever a woman wears, somebody will have a problem. When will they ever learn that the problem is not what the woman is wearing?
In Sudan, one of the only two Muslim countries in the region to have a women’s league, female players are required to wear the hijab, the traditional Muslim garb, and play fully covered from head to toe. There is one team called The Challenge that refuses to wear the hijab when they play their games.
We at GOALden Times would like to request Progressive Youth Club of Chandipur to take up the challenge and organize the match once again. We will extend our support if it happens, we will mobilize opinion from football fans across the globe using our network. We will do everything to make sure that the beautiful game doesn’t get impacted by Wahhabism.