Iranian women to be allowed into football stadiums, football fed president says

The plan has been backed by Iran's National Security Council, with a taskforce being set up to work out how to implement the decision. Women's attendance at football games has been a cause for contention within Iran since its banning in 1979.

Iranian women have been able to attend friendly matches this year against Russia and Kenya (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Plans are being made to allow women back into Iran's football stadiums, Iranian football federation head Nehdi Taj has said, adding that "the presence of women is no longer up for debate".

In a speech, Taj stated that "women will be present in stadiums such as Gol Gohar, Sepahan, Zob Ahan and Ghadir Ahvaz" whilst also mentioning the Azadi Stadium as another place that should prepare for women’s attendance.

The decision, backed by Iran’s National Security Council, has yet to have an implementation date. A taskforce made up of the football federation, ministries of interior and sport, as well as two security agencies are undergoing a consultation process on how to implement the decision.

Alongside the mandatory hijab, women’s attendance during football matches has been a focal point and a cause of contention between hardliners and reformists in Iranian politics, with politics often seeping into the world of football.

Although attendance at football matches has been banned since the 1979 revolution, limited numbers of women have been allowed to watch games in recent years.

The decisions have come after immense public and international pressure, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino calling the ban an "unacceptable situation" in a statement in 2019.

The statement came following the death of Sahar Khodayari by self-immolation after being arrested and sentenced to jail for entering a stadium to watch a match dressed as a man. It has since been known as the blue girl incident.

In March last year, women who had bought tickets to watch a World Cup qualifier against Lebanon were refused entry into Imam Reza stadium in Mashhad. The resulting protest saw the use of tear gas and pepper spray by the police.

This year however, women were allowed to watch the Iranian national team play Russia during a friendly in Azadi stadium, with one fifth of the 10,000 tickets being allocated for women’s attendance. Women were also allowed to watch a friendly with Kenya in the same month.

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