August 22 – Iran is under pressure again, this time by its own regional body, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), for failing to lift its ban on women attending men’s matches.
Earlier this month Iran’s prosecutor-general Mohammad Montazeri said the issue was “certainly not the concern of FIFA” which has warned the country it could be barred from the World Cup qualifiers, which start September 5, if it doesn’t lift the nearly 40-year ban on women from sports stadiums.
AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John, has added to pressure on Tehran to review its long-running ban which was partially relaxed for the Asian Champions League final but is otherwise strictly imposed.
The AFC is trying to help FIFA find an “amicable solution” , John told Reuters: “Everybody needs to be catered (for), it’s an inclusive game.
“Women play the game in Iran, men play the game, so everybody should be able to watch. For us, at the end of the day we respect the local law, but we also want to promote the game.”
The president of National Olympic Committee, Reza Salehi Amiri, was quoted by Shargh newspaper as saying the matter needed to be discussed with the country’s grand ayatollahs before the sports authorities make any decision.
“We need to reassure them that we are going to take care of the issue of vulgarity and that seems possible to me. We need to visit the city of Qom [where most Shia grand ayatollahs live] and talk to the senior clerics,” said Salehi Amiri, who is the second highest-ranking sports official in Iran.
He also speculated that if the stadium gates were opened to women they might eventually lose interest in attending “as they will feel that the restrictions on them have been removed”.
Meanwhile, Montazeri stepped up his criticism of FIFA.
“When a woman goes to the stadium and sees half-naked men in sports clothing, sin is committed,” he declared.
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