It was 41 years ago that Iran did not send their women's volleyball squad to any international competition. They came back and are now competing in the on-going 14th Asian Senior Women's Volleyball Championship at The Mall Nakhon Ratchasima's MCC Hall. Where have they been and why are they now in different uniforms the other teams are wearing?
"This is not the first time that we sent our women's volleyball team to international tournaments. Actually, we took part in the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok. We proved our ability by returning with the bronze medal," Iranian head of delegation GH Derakhshandeh said in an interview.
"At that time, we wore ordinary uniforms like what Japan and Kazakhstan are wearing - jerseys, shorts, socks and sports shoes. However, later, we had a revolution in our country. We had a president and became more strict religiously in doing anything including wearing any uniform, especially our women's sportswear.
"We had decided not to send our women's volleyball team to any major international competitions since then. Thai's 41 years ago. However, as we learned about the 14th Asian Senior Women's Volleyball Championship, which is now taking place in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, we thought that the Iranian women's volleyball team could also take part in the tournament with Islamic dress code.
"Certainly, it would be a unique thing in sport world. Such dress does not create restriction but it will bring immunity for women, especially Islamic ladies in Thailand. It will also lead to some good publicity to the Islam world.
"We then decided to send our team to Thailand in the Islamic dress code which has already been approved by authorities of Sport Organisation, the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) and the AVC (Asian Volleyball Confederation). Our participation in the Asian meet in the designed Islamic outfit is not contradictory to any of the laws of the FIVB. We had a positive idea that although we had strict rules in wearing, our women's team could still take part in international tournaments if only we wear suitable clothes.
"That's why we are here. We just want to prove to the world that we can compete in those uniforms (Islamic dress code). We also want to improve our volleyball skill to meet international standards," he added.
Actually, GH Derakhshandeh is the only man accompanying the team as the head of delegation, while team manager Zahra Sarajan, head coach Mina Fathi, assistant coach Sama Sadeghi, doctor Sara Jomhouri and therapist/trainer Efat Nasr Nasrabadi are all women.
In preparation for the Asian meet, the Iranian team underwent the intensive training. A total of 51 players picked up among good players from Super League, First Division and Junior Championship last year were invited to the 12-day first camp. Only 25 players would then be chosen for the second camp in the other 12 days. The third camp for the last 12 players was held for another 12 days. The Armenian women's national team was also invited to Iran for some friendly matches.
The presence of the Iranian women's volleyball team is expected to catch much spotlight as this is their debut effort in the Asian Senior Women's Volleyball Championship, which was held for the first time in 1975 in Australia where Japan, Korea and China finished first, second and third places respectively.
Iran are in Group C with Kazakhstan, Taiwan and New Zealand. On the opening day of the Asian meet on Wednesday, Iran suffered the first loss at the hands of Kazakhstan, going down 10-25 16-25 12-25. On Thursday, they will go up against Taiwan before facing New Zealand the following day.
The Nation, Nakhon Ratchasima
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