Women's Sport: Gianni Infantino demands that Iran allow women into stadiums

Gianni Infantino

Gianni Infantino announced in a statement that the position of FIFA was ‘clear and firm’ and that ‘now is the moment to change things’.

This ‘moment’ comes 40 years after Iranian women were banned from attending sports stadiums, when men’s teams have been playing, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Media attention regarding the ban has intensified recently following the death of a female football fan, Sahar Khodayari.

Khodayari, also known as the ‘Blue Girl’ after the colours of her favourite Iranian football team Esteghlal, set herself alight after she was denied access to a football stadium in Tehran.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, Khodayari was charged with 'openly committing a sinful act' by 'appearing in public without a hijab' when she attempted to enter a stadium 'dressed as a man' in March.

Sahar Khodayari tragedy

Khodayari died on September 9, 2019, following a court appearance in Tehran earlier that month. When the case was adjourned, she poured petrol over herself and set herself on fire.

Her death has provoked anger both in Iran and around the world.

Iranian activist Maryam Shojaei had persistently urged FIFA to end the ban on female fans being allowed into stadiums to watch games in Iran.


Demands to FIFA

She is a member of the women's advocacy group @OpenStadiums, which lobbies against Iran's longtime ban on females attending sporting events at stadiums in the country.

Shojaei, whose brother is Masoud Shojaei the captain of Iran's national football team, said that the sport's world governing body had not done enough to confront the ban.

She told CNN that she had written eight letters to the FIFA President to explain to him the challenges that female football fans in Iran face.

She also says she personally delivered a letter to FIFA's secretary general Fatma Samoura and urged her to take action.

"I think FIFA is the one to blame and if they enforced their own human rights and gender discrimination rules, Sahar would have been alive today," Maryam Shojaei said.


Infantino responds

FIFA President, Infantino, continued in his statement: "I am hopeful that the Iranian Federation and the Iranian authorities were receptive to our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation.

"I contacted them several times in the recent past and so has the FIFA administration. We have a delegation of FIFA members in Iran at the moment and I am looking forward to hearing good news from them.

"Our position is clear and firm. Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran.

"We understand there are steps and processes that need to be taken before this is done in a proper and safe way but now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October."

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