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Fifa ‘assured’ Iranian women will be able to attend football matches

Fifa ‘assured’ Iranian women will be able to attend football matches

  • 22 September 2019

Female football fans cheering at the World Cup 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Women cheering at a screening of a match at last year’s World Cup – one of the very rare occasions female fans were admitted alongside men

Women in Iran will be able to attend football matches, starting with a World Cup qualifier next month, according to football’s world governing body, Fifa.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said he discussed the issue with the Iranian authorities after the death of a female fan earlier this month.

Mr Infantino said they assured him that women would be allowed into matches.

Women have effectively been banned from stadiums where men are playing since just after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Earlier this month, football fan Sahar Khodayari died after being arrested for trying to go to a match disguised as a man.

Ms Khodayari, also known as the “blue girl” after the colours of her favourite team Esteqlal, feared she would be jailed. She set herself on fire outside the court and died a week later in hospital.

Her death caused widespread grief and outrage, both within and outside Iran.

Image Copyright @Ardeshirz

Twitter post by @Ardeshirz: We gathered in Toronto this evening to light a candle in memory of the #BlueGirl #SaharKhodayari Image Copyright @Ardeshirz

Football players and fans around the world have also been paying tribute to Ms Khodayari. Footballers from some European women’s teams have been wearing blue armbands during matches, in her memory.

Fifa itself has faced growing criticism, with people calling for the body to suspend or ban Iran’s football federation.

What did Fifa say?

Fifa officials have spent a week in Iran discussing the 10 October match against Cambodia, Iran’s first home game of the 2022 qualifying competition.

“We need to have women attending,” Mr Infantino told a Fifa conference on women’s football.

“We have been assured that as of the next international game of Iran… women will be allowed to enter football stadiums. This is something very important – in 40 years this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions.”

Although Iranian women have been banned from watching men’s teams play, foreign women have been allowed limited access to stadiums in order to watch these matches.

While the sporting ban is not written into law, it is “ruthlessly enforced”, Human Rights Watch says.

The ban was temporarily lifted last year to allow women to watch the World Cup being streamed at a stadium in Tehran.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHundreds of Iranian women watched their first men’s football match at the World Cup last year

Last November, there were hopes of more long-term change when a group of women were allowed to enter the second leg of the Asian Champions League final in Tehran. Mr Infantino was also at that match.

However, women have been denied access to matches since.