Iranian footballing legend Ali Daei has publicly condemned the use of tear gas on women trying to enter the stadium to watch Iran’s last World Cup qualifying match in Mashhad last week.
Daei, a former professional footballer who was captain of the national team from 2000 to 2006, was a special guest at Friday's draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. “We will never forget the shameful events and the inhumane treatment of our female football fans at Imam Reza Stadium,” he wrote on his Instagram page on Sunday.
“In every instance, women and men have equal rights. I hope the day will come when Iranian women and girls can freely and safely go into stadiums - and cry from joy because their favorite team has won, not because of pepper spray and tear gas.”
On Tuesday, March 29, more than 2,000 women, most of whom had tickets for the Iran v Lebanon match, were blocked from entering the stadium. Some reported being told by guards that "Tehran" opposed their entry. Those who remained outside were then assaulted.
FIFA has only said that it will ask for "an explanation". In the meantime Safiollah Faghanpour, head of the Iranian Football Federation’s legal department, said the Federation had received a letter from FIFA but claimed it was not related to “a specific subject”.
This seemingly passive response from the world footballing has prompted a number of football coaches and players to speak up on behalf of those Iranian women barred from the stands, calling on men to boycott matches until they are given access.