DUBAI: The ban on women attending football matches in Iran is “unacceptable” and must be lifted, the head of the sports’ world governing body said in a statement.
FIFA’s position is “clear and firm” and that women “have to be allowed” into football stadiums in the country, according to president Gianni Infantino.
Iran’s ban on women attending sports stadiums was put in place shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, despite international pressure to let them attend.
Infantino’s call comes shortly after the death of Sahar Khodayari, a female fan who set herself on fire after she was denied access to a football stadium in Tehran.
Khodayari, dubbed the “Blue Girl” because of the colors of the team she supported, Esteghlal FC, was detained and charged with “openly committing a sinful act” by “appearing in public without a hijab” after attempting to enter a stadium “dressed as a man” in March.
She died of her injuries on September 9 in a hospital after setting herself on fire outside a court earlier this month.
“I am hopeful that the Iranian Federation and the Iranian authorities were receptive to our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation,” Infantino said in a statement.
“I contacted them several times in the recent past and so has the FIFA administration. We have a delegation of FIFA members in Iran at the moment and I am looking forward to hearing good news from them.
“We understand there are steps and processes that need to be taken before this is done in a proper and safe way but now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October.”
Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has asked the judiciary to investigate the circumstances of Khodayari’s death, although the department’s spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, has said that Khodayari “had clearly confessed her mistake during questioning, accepted it and expressed regret.”
FIFA has sent a letter to the to the Iranian Football Federation in June, requesting a timeline that would allow women to be able to buy tickets for World Cup qualifiers. Iran’s men’s national team takes on Cambodia in a World Cup qualifying game on October 10.