Women's Sport: Women across the UK turn the memory of Iranian 'Blue Girl' into a legacy weekend for women's football globally

Last week, Give Me Sport Women’s Elizabeth Conway reported on the tragic death of Sahar Khodayari, the Iranian woman who died from burns caused by setting herself on fire after she was arrested and trialled for entering an Iranian football stadium. 

Since 1979, all women have been banned from football stadiums in Iran. Despite the infamous rule, Sahar Khodayari, otherwise known as ‘Blue Girl’, disguised herself as a man in an attempt to watch her team, Esteghlal, play in March. 

She was caught and charged with ‘openly committing a sinful act’ by ‘appearing in public without a hijab’. Khodayari appeared in court on September 9 and, when the case was adjourned, set herself on fire.

Sahar Khodayari later died in hospital from her injuries. Her death has caused a global uproar, with FIFA now demanding that Iran must overturn the ban.

Amongst the anger, this weekend women across the country have come together to help raise public awareness of #ForBlueGirl and the stadium ban, by taking posters into football stadiums and sharing pictures across social media. 

Female football community, This Fan Girl, urged fans to participate in their campaign by taking a poster along to whichever football fixture they were heading to this weekend. They aimed to raise awareness and increase pressure on Iran’s football federation and above all else, ensure that Sahar’s story was not forgotten. 

Women and men, up and down the U.K., showed their display of support at various games this weekend. From women’s cup matches to the men’s Premier League, the majority of U.K. football stadiums featured a fan standing in solidarity with the women of Iran. 

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In a recent interview, the movement declared that they will fight in Sahar’s name until the ban is overturned. ‘I feel like it is [our] responsibility to write about her. I really want to see something good and see justice come out of this tragedy. Just mourning a person is not enough.’ 

Although the act of taking a poster to a football game, or tweeting a hashtag is a small one, it’s the congregation of women across the world that could force change. As female fans that are allowed into stadiums, it is our job to recognised and uses our privilege to speak for those in Iran who may not have a voice. Female football fans must stand in solidarity to ensure Sahar’s death is not in vain. 

Putting heartache to one side, the woman behind OpenStadiums’ social platforms strongly believes that Iranian women will one day be allowed into football stadiums. Earlier this week she said, ‘it will happen. You cannot stop us.’ 

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