Pink Card

Pink Card

Iran’s national soccer stadium is named ‘Azadi.’ That means ‘freedom.’ But Iranian women have been banned from that stadium – and from all live soccer games – for more than 40 years. Some women have dared to defy that. They’ve protested at the gates, subverted officials, and snuck into games. In this 30 for 30 Podcasts series, Pink Card, Shima Oliaee (Dolly Parton’s America, Radiolab) tells a four-decade story of resistance with roots in soccer. Part memoir, sports drama, social history and caper, Pink Card traces Oliaee’s Iranian-American history, and follows three generations of Iranian women who risk their lives for the simple right to watch a soccer game. It will forever change how you view fandom and freedom.


Episode 1

Red Girl Growing up Iranian American, Shima Oliaee found her mother didn’t talk much about where she came from. Watching soccer, though, was a portal to Iran, a place that was in large part a mystery. Shima delves into the stories she didn’t hear growing up: Iran's mandated modernization and how soccer played a role, the women-led 1979 revolution, and her parents’ mistaken-identity love story. Shima and her mom meet Zeinab Sahafy, a young Iranian woman and soccer fan, who has been named an enemy of the state.

Episode 2

The Mannequins This episode starts with two questions: If women equally led the 1979 revolution, why were their rights stripped away first? How does this happen to an emboldened part of the population? At first, the women fight back, chanting “Azadi! Azadi!” [translation: “Freedom! Freedom!”] in the streets until the clerics back down. But in a story told by legendary writer and activist Mehrangiz Kar, women’s rights erode one by one – leading us to the nationwide ban on women at stadiums. This is when Iran's national soccer stadium becomes a battleground.

Episode 3

The White Scarves One game sets off a movement. In 1997 Iran surprisingly makes the World Cup in the last three minutes of play in a game against Australia. When Iran's national team gets helicoptered into Azadi Stadium to celebrate, women are asked to stay home. They don't listen, and thousands rush the stadium. This is the origin story of the White Scarves, a group that uses international soccer matches to defy the regime and take back their country. As the White Scarves gain international fame, they face grave danger at home.

Episode 4

Blue Girl (Warning: this episode includes description of a suicide.) The newest generation of Iranian girl soccer fans take a bold new approach. They cross-dress as men to sneak into Azadi Stadium, documenting their rebellion live on social media - an irreverent middle finger to the government. One of those girls is Zeinab Sahafy, from Episode 1. One night four of her friends are arrested and she flees for her life. Another girl, still in the country, loses her life. In a moment described as “a miracle,” Iran’s regime relents on its ban and thousands of women enter the stadium. We end Pink Card wondering how this hard-won slice of freedom connects to the 2022 historic protests and a possible new revolution, more than 40 years after Shima’s teenage mother left home.