Iranian hoopsters overcome adversity to inspire

The young Iran women’s team gave female basketball aspirants in their country a new lease on life when they participated in the FIBA under-16 Women’s Asia Cup wearing a headgear, breaking their 38-year old jinx from international basketball events.

FIBA earlier had a rule stating that players were not allowed to wear equipment which can cause injury to other players. Hence, hair coverings were not allowed, though the guidelines permit wearing of hair bands with a maximum of five centimetres. In May 2017, FIBA adopted a new rule that allowed women wearing headgear compete in international events.

Iran head coach Elaheh Darestani has close to 30 years of coaching experience under her belt. She has trained players in different age categories and been at the helm of women’s team in the Iranian Basketball Super League.

However, she could not fulfill her wish of representing the nation on the international arena because of the regulations, which did not recognise hijab as part of the dress code, refraining women from competing internationally.

Elaheh’s role was not limited to the basketball court. She also helped in rescuing some of the players from Kermenshah, a city caught up in the frontline during the Iraq-Iran war.

“She was in Kermenshah where there was war. All the basketball players came with her to Tehran where she trained them. There were 12 to 15 players,” said Rojin Talakob, a point guard in the side.

Elaheh considers the rule a welcome change and is eager to show the world the Iranian way of the game.

“We are so happy that we can show our basketball here. We always wanted to come here and play. We have camps in Iran,” she said via a translator. “It can be a new start for all the girls in Iran,” Elaheh added.

However, all those issues took a backseat when the young Iranian women, wearing loose fitting, full body uniforms and sporting red headscarves, stepped on the court. They played hard, physical basketball at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium on Monday and registered a morale-boosting 89-32 win over Nepal.

The moment was surreal for Rojin. “It was our dream”, she said.

Fatemeh Mortazavi, who plays as a centre, shared Rojin’s emotion. “We are so happy because we are here now.”

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