PARIS: FIFA president Gianni Infantino has put pressure on Iran in an attempt to ensure that the country will allow female football fans to attend matches in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, according to a letter sent to the Iranian Football Federation and seen by AFP.
In the letter dated June 18, Infantino mentioned his attendance at the second leg of the Asian Champions League final in Tehran last November, between Iranian club Persepolis and Kashima Antlers of Japan, when women were allowed into the stadium, “for the first time in 40 years.”
Infantino referred to “these important first steps” but regretted that women were not then permitted to attend the friendly between Iran and Syria earlier this month, and that “a number of women seeking to attend the match were detained by security forces for a number of hours.”
“Unfortunately, this is, I also have to say, not in line with the commitments given to us in March 2018 by President (Hassan) Rouhani when we were assured that important progress would be made on this matter soon,” he added.
The FIFA president, who in early June was re-elected for a four-year term, referred to the spotlight placed on women in football at the ongoing World Cup in France and asked Iranian authorities to provide “concrete steps” before July 15 toward allowing women to attend qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which start in September.
Women have been barred from attending matches since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with clerics arguing they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.
Described as a moderate conservative, President Rouhani has on several occasions expressed a desire to allow women into games.
However, last October, the country’s prosecutor general said he objected to women attending matches, saying it would “lead to sin.”
Female fans were allowed to attend football matches for the first time in Saudi Arabia in January 2018, with the first match that women attended being the Al-Ahli match against Al-Batin on Jan. 12.
The Saudi Arabian government announced the lifting of the ban in 2017 and as a result, women are now able to enjoy Saudi Professional League matches.