Iran football boss says women can attend top league matches

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Women in Iran, who have long been barred from attending football matches except for rare occasions, will be allowed into stadiums during the upcoming season, a top official said Sunday.

“This year, one of the prominent features of this league... is that we will witness the entry of women into stadiums,” said Mehdi Taj, head of Iran’s Football Federation.

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He was speaking during a live broadcast of the draw ceremony for the upcoming season of Iran’s top level football league. The 16-team tournament is set to begin next month.

Iran has largely barred female spectators from football and other sports stadiums since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, despite no law banning their participation.

Clerics, who play a major role in decision-making in Iran, have argued that women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad male athletes.

Some officials have blamed lacking infrastructure in sports facilities.

Taj on Sunday said some stadiums in the cities of Isfahan, Kerman and Ahwaz -- but not the capital Tehran -- were “ready” to host women.

In August, women were allowed for the first time in years to attend a national football championship match, when Tehran club Esteghlal took on Mes Kerman.

In another rare instance in October 2019, some 4,000 women were allowed to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Iran has faced mounting pressure to allow women into matches after the 2019 death of football fan Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire for fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match disguised as a man.

Khodayari became known as the “blue girl” after the colors of her favorite side, Esteghlal.

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