How Ramadan affects nightlife in Iran’s capital Tehran

Shouting and cheering that could be heard a block away, vuvuzelas blasting, clouds of cigarette smoke billowing in the lights.

Those are not scenes that Tehran’s Honarmandan (Artists) Park is used to seeing on a normal night. But that was the setting when the final match of the street football Ramadan Grand Cup was held on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of people – mostly young men and women, but also families with children and people walking their dogs – had gathered to watch the match of Gol Koochik (small goal), played in one of the emptied pools of the large park.

Gol Koochik is a variation of street football popular in Iran that uses a small net and a light-weight, makeshift plastic ball.

For the tournament, 20 four-man teams signed up and went head-to-head during the event that was organised for the first time during the holy Muslim month.

Women were not allowed to sign up with their own teams, as entities that are in charge of issuing permits for such events – the local municipality and law enforcement – would not greenlight it.

But men and women watched the match together, something that is still denied to them in football stadiums.

“They’re our neighbours,” said Erfan Delfani, pointing to a police kiosk across the street.

The 31-year-old, who runs a small but popular omelette place next to the park, said the municipality and police helped a lot. Having grown up with Gol Koochik like many other Iranian youth, he had the idea to organise the tournament.

Delfani did not widely advertise the tournament, instead relying on his network of local friends and associates.

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