FIFA will visit Iran to review preparations for allowing women to attend men’s soccer games, a spokesman for the world soccer governing body told Reuters and AFP on September 11.
The announcement of FIFA’s visit, expected in the next two weeks, follows the death of a 29-year-old woman who set herself on fire after being charged for attempting to attend a men’s soccer match disguised as a male.
Sahar Khodayari, nicknamed “The Blue Girl” after the colors of her favorite team, Esteghlal, died in a hospital in Tehran, Iranian media reported on September 9.
However, the FIFA spokesman said the delegation’s visit was not a specific response to Khodayari’s death and is related to preparations for Iran’s home World Cup qualifier versus Cambodia on October 10.
A FIFA statement on September 10 expressed condolences while reiterating “our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has previously urged Iranian authorities to take "concrete steps" to allow Iranian and foreign women to attend games.
In past years, only selected groups of women have been allowed into stadiums to watch soccer matches or other men's sporting events.
The ban on women in sports venues is not part of legislation or regulations, but is enforced anyway with clerics arguing that women must be shielded from foul-mouthed, semi-clad men.
Human Rights Watch director of global initiatives, Minky Worden, said on Twitter that Infantino has not applied enough pressure on Iran to stop the abuses.
“It was predictable decades of women protesting #Iran’s stadium ban could end in catastrophe,” Worden said while asking FIFA to confirm actions it will take after the tragic death of Sahar.
FIFA had reportedly given Iran an August 31 deadline to comply with its non-discrimination statutes.