Husband Bans Iranian Soccer Star From Competing In Championship

September 17, 2015  |  

Niloufar Ardalan is widely regarded as the best soccer player in her home country of Iran. There, the 30-year-old is known as “Lady Goal.” And while her team has earned the right to advance to the Asian Football Federations Women’s Futsal Championship, in Malaysia, she will not be attending or competing.

Not because she’s sustained an injury or has been disqualified but because her husband won’t allow it.

According to Iranian law, a woman must obtain her husband’s consent to apply for or renew her passport. Though he hasn’t spoken on the matter publicly, Ardalan’s husband, Mahdi Toutounchi, a sports journalist, will reportedly not sign renewal papers because he wants her to be home for their seven-year-old son’s first day of school.

Ardalan, the captain of the team, is now fighting for a change in the law that clearly favors men, who do not need their wives’ permission to travel abroad.

Though she has not spoken to any foreign media, Ardalan told

“I wish authorities would create [measures] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights in such situations. These games are very important to me. As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the games], rather than traveling for leisure and fun.”

Naturally, Ardalan’s decision to discuss this matter publicly has sparked much debate from those within and outside of the Islamic community.

Some are commending her for speaking out and raising awareness to the issue of how the law negatively affects a woman’s life and freedom.

But others seem to believe we need to hear the husband’s side of the story and she should have kept this family matter private and away from the media.

Over here, in the Western world, people are arguing that her husband is abusing the law, keeping her in Iran simply because he can and is using their son as a pawn.

We’ll probably never know his true intentions, specifically if he refuses to speak.

Obviously as a Western, Christian woman and feminist I take issue with this much power and control being placed in a man’s hand. And I hope Ardalan’s choice to speak out about the matter causes people to consider amending the law.

Personally, I read this story and felt not only sympathy for Ardalan but wondered how a Muslim woman, perhaps one being abused or mistreated by her husband, would even begin to be able to escape him and the environment.

But that’s a separate issue.

What do you think about Ardalan’s situation? I would especially love to hear from my Muslim brothers and sisters on this one.

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