In Iran, women are strongly discouraged from attending soccer matches in public. So those female soccer fans aren't sitting on the sidelines anymore -- they're playing the game themselves.

Iran Soccer

Even in Iran's oppressive culture, revolution is happening. A generation of females is playing soccer as never before. That's no exaggeration: As recently as 2005, there were no Iranian women playing organized soccer in the country.

According to a new feature by Bill Spindle in The Wall Street Journal, that number is now up to 4,000 and growing.

At the heart of this change is an Iranian-American woman. Katyoun Khosrowyar, 27, is captain of the Iranian women's national soccer team. She has lived in Iran for 10 years and is constantly working to make soccer more accessible to the country's females.

Khosrowyar is also coach of the country's under-14 women's team, but she plays a large political role in the revolution. Recently, she helped argue against the wearing of headscarves when playing on the field.

The Iranian women's national team has not found much success on the international level, but it is helping spur rapid participation in the sport -- one that has many eager young players but a lack of coaches with their own experience.

"The biggest challenge we have is the lack of leader coaches," said Iran's head of women's soccer programs to the WSJ. "[Khosrowyar] is just one, but she’s got a great future."

Thanks to the impending nuclear deal with Iran, new opportunities may bring in sponsorship deals and other agreements between Iran's soccer programs and organizations in Europe and America, which could continue to foster women's soccer in the country.

For years, Iran's women were only able to compete in riflery -- a sport that they could do while fully covered, and individually.

But small soccer leagues and soccer-loving groups began to form, and the prospect of international competition began to attract more females to the sport.

Now, soccer is one of the biggest games among females in Iran -- and a possible key to further social progress in the country.

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