September 19 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino has finally been pressured into personally reacting to Iran’s ban on women attending men’s football following the grotesque tragedy of a female fan dying after setting fire to herself.
Sahar Khodayari self-immolated earlier this month outside a courthouse after being arrested trying to sneak into the Azadi stadium dressed as a man to watch her beloved Esteghlal FC face UAE’s Al Ain in an AFC Champions League match. She was rushed to hospital but later died of her wounds.
Khodayari was immediately dubbed “Blue Girl” after the colours of her favourite team Esteghlal. The gruesome case prompted a global outcry, with FIFA slammed by human rights groups for taking no action, and highlighted Iran’s ban on women watching men’s football since the 1979 Islamic Revolution which has recently been only partially relaxed for certain games, with the female fans cherry-picked to attend by the authorities.
In a statement, Infantino, who is clearly losing patience, expressed his frustration that Iran had not done nearly enough to abide by the rules but stopped short of threatening to throw them out if they maintained their gender prejudice.
“I am hopeful that the Iranian Federation and the Iranian authorities were receptive to our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation,” Infantino said.
“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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