FIFA President Gianni Infantino says “it was great to meet” with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in New York, as the Islamic Republic is facing wide criticism over its ban on women attending stadiums, the arrest of football players deemed as critics of the government and the interference of its security institutions in sports matters.
After the September 20 meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Infantino took to Instagram to say he had “congratulated the President on the work that has been done to develop the game in his country.”
“We also discussed the development of women’s football in the country, and the progress made regarding the presence of women in football stadiums while reiterating the importance to keep on doing more all over the country,” the president of football’s world governing body added.
According to the official IRNA news agency, Raisi had the nerve to urge the FIFA president “to be careful about the influence of politicians in this popular sport.”
For more than four decades, Iran's clerical establishment has opposed the idea of women being allowed in stadiums with male fans.
FIFA has pushed for changes in the Islamic Republic’s policy toward women fans, but only a restricted number of them have been allowed to attend a few matches in recent years.
Infantino also said he planned to visit Iran “in the near future to discuss football-related matters,” concluding, “They are a significant force in Asian football, and it is important for me to ensure we continue to nurture the positive and fruitful working relationship we have built.”
During his meeting with Raisi, Infantino presented a soccer ball to the Iranian president, IRNA reported.