Technical glitch gives brief hope to banned female soccer fans in Iran

In July, retired Iranian soccer legend Ali Karimi called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to lift the ban on women attending matches.

September 3, 2017 13:10
2 minute read.
Technical glitch gives brief hope to banned female soccer fans in Iran

Female Iranian fans cheer during a soccer match between Jordan and Iran at King Abdullah Stadium in Amman, Jordan, November 22, 2009.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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There was brief excitement for soccer-supporting Iranian women when they discovered that online ticket sales for Iran's upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifying match versus Syria was open to both male and female fans.

The semi-official Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported on Saturday that, unlike for previous home matches of the Iranian soccer team, women were able to register and purchase tickets for the September 5 game at Tehran's Azadi Stadium.

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Later the same day, the security director of Iran's Football Federation, Mohammad Hossein Hamisi, strongly rejected that permission had been granted to women to attend the stadium.

"There is no plan to permit the presence of women at the match. We strongly deny the rumors that have been published," said Hamisi in a statement on the federation's official website.

"All the rumors about this are far from reality... The Football Association, after learning of this shortcoming, will immediately follow up on this issue."

The ban on women attending sports matches was implemented following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The website responsible for the ticket sales later apologized for a "technical problem" that had enabled women to purchase tickets for the match.

Ticket purchases were made using an online system that requires users to provide their national identification numbers, at which stage women are usually prevented from purchasing. ISNA reported that a number of women had bought tickets.

In July, retired Iranian soccer legend Ali Karimi called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to lift the ban on women attending matches.

"This is the demand of millions upon millions of female fans who'd like to watch football matches and other events up close," said Karimi in a statement quoted by ISNA. "This important issue is not impossible, this dream of female sports fans can be achieved through correct planning."

Karimi joined former Iranian national team captain Masud Shojaei in campaigning for the change. Weeks earlier, Shojaei's social media appeal to the Iranian president went viral across the country.

"[If the ban is lifted] I think we would have to build a stadium that could hold 200,000 spectators, because we will see the flood of passion from our ladies."

Shojaei and teammate Ehsan Hajsafi were dropped from the Iran squad for the team's matches against South Korea and Syria after playing for Greek team Panionios against Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv in August.

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter addressed the ban during a meeting with Rouhani in November 2013 but voiced his frustration in March 2015 at the lack of progress on the issue.

"Nothing has happened. A collective ‘stadium ban’ still applies to women in Iran, despite the existence of a thriving women’s football organization. This cannot continue. Hence, my appeal to the Iranian authorities; open the nation’s football stadiums to women," wrote Blatter in FIFA's weekly magazine.

Blatter's successor Gianni Infantino, elected to the position in February 2016, is yet to comment on the matter.

Iran is already guaranteed a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after finishing top of their qualifying group. If Syria defeats Iran on Tuesday and other results go in its favor, the war-torn country could also guarantee its place at next year's championships.

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