Football, Fernanda Lima, and the dress that shocked Iran.
Football (soccer) is the number one sport in Iran. Iranians routinely follow soccer leagues in countries like Spain, England, and Germany, and important games are broadcast live on Iranian television. When Iran reached the World Cup finals for the fourth time last year, many Iranians poured into the streets and danced. The country’s millions of football fans were eager to know which teams Iran would be pitted against in the World Cup. Everyone was waiting for final World Cup drawing, televised on channel three, but because of the way its MC, the famous Brazilian model and actress Fernanda Lima, was dressed, the broadcast was censored. As a result, most of the final drawing was not aired.
- “Enemy…terrorism…nuclear bomb…war.” These words are often used by American media to describe Iran. The image the media presents is often hazy, incomplete, and distorted. The political and military aspects of my country are covered mainly in a negative light.
- In Under Eastern Eyes (I have adopted the name from the novel Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad), I will write about those topics which American media either cannot or does not want to talk about. The emphasis will be on social and cultural aspects of Iran although, out of necessity, I will talk about politics, despite my despair.
- Yaghoub Yadali, born in 1970, is a writer and television director. His first work of fiction, the short-story collection Sketches in the Garden, was published in 1997. It was followed in 2001 by Probability of Merriment and Mooning, which was named book of the year by the Writers and Critics Award. His first novel, The Rituals of Restlessness, won the 2004 Golshiri Foundation Award for the best novel of the year and was named as one of the ten best novels of the decade by the Press Critics Award. He has also published many articles and reviews of literature and cinema in newspapers and magazines in Iran.
After this happened, many outraged Facebook users posted waves of insults on Fernanda Lima’s personal page. They knew that her dress was the reason the program was not broadcast in its entirety. Some of these comments were indeed rude. Then other Iranians left messages to Lima, apologizing for the rude comments.
The international response was disturbing for Iranians, but for me the incident raised the question: Why? Fernanda Lima was not at fault and should not have been blamed. She had dressed according to her own cultural norms. Of course, maybe the International Federation of Football (FIFA) also wanted to attract more viewers by using a famous model and actress. So while the harsh laws governing television in Iran wouldn’t allow the program to be broadcast fully, the football-loving people in Iran, who consist mostly of youth and teenagers, were the victims.
It seems like the reaction from Iranian youth was a kind of blind rage; they were angry and had to object to someone. Since objecting to the government would be the equivalent of prison and headache, they chose a less troublesome route and objected to Fernanda Lima. In the middle of all this, there was even a cartoon recommending Lima wear a scarf or hijab so that Iranian television could broadcast her image!
Everyone took part from their own perspective and caught their own fish in the muddy water. Some members of the opposition accused a group of government supporters, known as the Cyber Army, of attacking Fernanda Lima’s page to mar the image of Iranian Facebook users, who are mostly anti-government.
A similar incident also occurred on Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi’s personal Facebook page.
As for these incidents, one cannot exclusively blame supporters of the government. What happened was shameful and everyone tried to find an explanation for it. I am neither a sociologist nor a psychologist, but an important factor needs to be considered in assessing this kind of behavior: Both the youngest generation and Iranian teenagers have developed under the restrictive shadow of Islamic teachings. They don’t have a proper way to satisfy their excitement. Such conditions can sometimes cause blind eruptions like this one, which are concerning, even though they have little consequence.