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Features

Iran Promises FIFA Women Will be Allowed in Stadiums (Again)

December 23, 2019
Payam Younesipour
3 min read
The Iranian Football Federation has made yet again another promise to FIFA, insisting that women will be allowed to enter stadiums
The Iranian Football Federation has made yet again another promise to FIFA, insisting that women will be allowed to enter stadiums

The Iranian Football Federation has promised top officials of the Executive Committee of the World Football Federation (FIFA) that the country will soon open the doors of stadiums to Iranian women.

It’s the latest in a string Iranian pledges to end the four-decade ban on women entering stadiums, an issue that attracted international attention when a woman named Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire in protest against the ban and authorities’ treatment of her, prompting FIFA to step up pressure on the Iranian Football Federation.

Sahar Khodayari, dubbed the Girl in Blue because she wore the color to show her support for Esteghlal Football Club, tried to enter Azadi Stadium in March 2019. Police arrested her and she was temporarily released while the prosecutor decided on her sentence. Khodayari then discovered that she would be facing jail time, and so set herself on fire in protest, ending to her death a few days later.  

Following this, FIFA announced that Iran must open stadiums to women as of October 10, 2019, when Iran’s national team faced Cambodia in a World Cup qualifier.

Previously, Iranian officials had tried to fool FIFA into thinking they were following the football governing body’s instructions, allowing women into stadiums in an extremely selective manner, and for international competitions only. The female spectators were selected from among police forces, athletes, and the football players' families.

FIFA then sent a three-member delegation to Iran to make sure women were let in to watch the match against Cambodia. Despite the World Football Federation's emphasis that women must be allowed into all stadiums in all cities for all league and national competitions, the Iranian Football Federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sports announced that female attendance would only be allowed for games played by the national team.

However, in September 2019, FIFA president Gianni Infantino made a formal announcement about Iran: "Following discussions, FIFA reaffirmed its strong and clear position that all women should be allowed to freely enter stadiums for all football matches. FIFA also announced that the number of women entering the stadium should be on demand and that tickets should be made available to all women."

Infantino rejected statements made by the Iranian Youth and Sports' Minister, Masoud Soltanifar and further commented: "The World Football Federation will continue its relationship with the Iranian Football Federation and Iranian government agencies to implement these important changes in accordance with FIFA's regulations. FIFA's stance is firm; women must be allowed to enter Iranian football stadiums, for all football matches."

But despite its promises, the Iranian Football Federation appeared to be standing firmly to its beliefs, and the October 10 lifting of the ban was actually only partial — many seats were left unfilled, and some female fans reported that they had found it difficult or impossible to purchase tickets for the game.

After Infantino’s statements, FIFA told Mehdi Taj, the head of the Iranian Football Federation, that it had learned that “the ban on women's entry into stadiums is continuing” and as a result, the governing body intended to “pay a surprise visit to Iran” to check officials were actually implementing what they had promised. 

However, the announcement of a secret visit from Infantino or one of FIFA’s key officials coincided with the outbreak of nationwide protests in Iran, and the FIFA president reportedly changed his mind.

Writing for Reuters, journalist Simon Evans reported that the Iranian Football Federation had again expressed its commitment to uphold FIFA’s demand and let women into stadiums,

IranWire has contacted FIFA for a comment about its current position on the ban, and on Infantino’s decision not to travel to Iran, but has so far not received any response.

 

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