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Sunday Sep 22 2019

Iran 'assures' FIFA that women can attend qualifier, says football body's president

Supporters hold a banner reading 'Let Iranian women enter their stadiums' during an international football match between Sweden and Iran at the Friends Arena in Solna Municipality near Stockholm, Sweden, March 31, 2015. AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand/Files

Iran's authorities have "assured" FIFA that women will be able to attend a World Cup qualifier in Tehran next month, the president of the world's football governing body, Gianni Infantino, said on Sunday.

The FIFA had earlier today demanded Iran allow women free unlimited access to stadiums following the 'Blue Girl' incident where a woman football fan died of self-immolation after being arrested trying to access a stadium.

"We have been assured that as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums," Infantino told a FIFA conference on women's football in Milan on Sunday.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums that breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

"We need to have women attending, we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way and we cannot wait anymore," Infantino added.

"This is something very important; it is 40 years that this has not happened, with a couple of exceptions but it is important to move to the next level and to the next stage."

'Insulting' law enforcement officers

The Islamic republic has barred women spectators from football and other stadiums since 1981, with clerics arguing they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

FIFA officials have been in Iran to discus preparations for the October 10 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia, their first home game of the 2022 qualifying competition.

Iran had came under fire earlier this month over its anti-women laws after Sahar Khodayari — dubbed "blue girl" because of the colours of the team she supported, Esteghlal FC — died of self-immolation in fear of being jailed, triggering calls for an end to a ban on women attending matches.

Khodayari was reportedly detained last year when trying to enter a stadium dressed as a man to watch them. The judiciary's Mizan Online website had said she had been arrested trying to enter a stadium and faced charges of offending "public chastity and insulting" law enforcement officers.

She died of her injuries in a Tehran hospital after setting herself on fire outside a court.

Khodayari's death sparked an outcry online, with many calling on world football's governing body FIFA to ban Iran from international competitions and for fans to boycott matches.