Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

Iran says women will be allowed to attend World Cup qualifier

Tehran assured Fifa women will be allowed to attend the match next month following the 'blue girl' incident

Supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal wave flags of their favourite team at the Azadi (Freedom) stadium, in Tehran, Iran. AP
Supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal wave flags of their favourite team at the Azadi (Freedom) stadium, in Tehran, Iran. AP

Iranian authorities have assured Fifa that woman will be able to attend a World Cup qualifying match in Tehran next month, Gianni Infantino, the president of football's governing body, said.

The assurance came after Fifa demanded that Iran allow women free unlimited access to stadiums following the "blue girl" incident where a woman killed herself after being arrested trying to access a football stadium.

"We have been assured that as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums," Mr Infantino told press in Milan on Sunday.

Fifa wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums as it breaches international football statutes prohibiting discrimination.

"We need to have women attending, we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way and we cannot wait any more," Mr Infantino said.

"This is something very important, it is 40 years that this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions, but it is important to move to the next level and to the next stage."

The Islamic republic barred female spectators from football and other stadiums in 1981, with clerics arguing they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

Fifa officials have been in Iran to discus preparations for the October 10 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia, their first home game of the 2022 qualifying competition.

Sahar Khodayari, dubbed the "blue girl" because of the colours of the team she supported, Esteghlal

FC, was reportedly detained last year when trying to enter a stadium dressed as a man to watch them.

She died of her injuries in a Tehran hospital after setting herself on fire outside a court in early September.

The death of Khodayari sparked an outcry online, with many calling on Fifa to ban Iran from international competitions and for fans to boycott matches.

"I think it's huge, that Fifa has enough of a pull and ability to influence change," two-time US women's World Cup winning coach Jill Ellis said on the sidelines of the Milan conference.

"It's absolutely right, I don't think there should be any discrimination, period. And not to allow women attend matches, I can't even wrap my brain around it."

Updated: September 23, 2019 11:20 AM

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