Will Female Iranian Football Fans Finally be Able to Attend Matches for the First Time in 40 Years?
The ban on women in football stadiums has led to a tragic incident that pressured Fifa authorities to discuss changes in Iran's legislation.
Earlier this month, social media platforms lit up in blue once again – this time, not for Sudan, but for young Iranian female football fan, Sahar Khodayari, dubbed now as ‘Blue Girl,’ who set herself on fire and died.
She had been arrested days before, after trying to sneak into a football stadium disguised as a man. She was awaiting trial – which had been postponed due to a family emergency – and returned in the meantime to the courthouse to collect her belongings, where she reportedly overheard someone at the courthouse say that, if she were convicted, she would face a prison sentence of between six months and two years.
That incident allegedly prompted her to set herself alight in front of the courthouse. She was dubbed the 'blue girl' after her favorite Iranian football team, Esteghlal.
Iran's football fans held up signs calling for women to be allowed into stadium during the 2018 World Cup game between Morocco and Iran. Photo courtesy of TIME.
Weeks after this tragic incident, which took social media by the storm, president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, released a statement revealing that he had come to an agreement with Iranian officials that will allow women to attend an upcoming World Cup qualifier in Tehran, with a view to making it a permanent arrangement.
This would mark the first time that women have been allowed to attend football games – or even simply enter stadiums – in Iran legally since just after the 1979 Islamic revolution, save for a few rare exceptions, including foreign women being allowed limited access on occasions, as well as a temporary lift of the ban last year that allowed women to watch the live stream of the world cup at a stadium in Tehran.
"We have been assured that as of the next international game of Iran...women will be allowed to enter football stadiums,” Infantino said during a FIFA conference of women’s football, according to BBC. “This is something very important - in 40 years this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions.” However, Iranian officials have yet to comment.
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