The football teams of Iran and North Korea played their game in the absence of any spectators in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on October 12, 2021. The Iranian Football Federation did not allow any spectators to the stadium under the excuse of Covid-19 protocols, to keep up its ban on women.
One of the conditions FIFA had set for Iran to qualify for hosting the games was allowing the entrance of women to all Iranian stadiums in all national and league games.
This time, however, the Iranian Football Federation took advantage of the hygiene protocols to keep up its ban on women’s entrance by banning all spectators from attending the game.
The clerical regime announced that the reason for holding the games without spectators is the new rules announced for reopening of stadiums during the pandemic.” (The state-run ISNA news agency – October 11, 2021)
The acting director-general of the Football Federation, Hassan Kamranifar, said, “The absence of fans is not related to any outside issue. To take into account, the hygiene protocols and infrastructure, we concluded on our own that the games should take place without the presence of fans.” (The official IRNA news agency – October 11, 2021)
Officials of the Sports Ministry and the Football Federation made conflicting remarks to the extent that the state-media wrote, “It is not clear why there is no unanimity in such an important issue.” (The state-run khabarban website – October 12, 2021)
In a word, the officials of the Iranian Football Federation were forced to hold the game without any spectators because they did not have permission to allow women into the stadium. In this way, the clerical regime deceived the FIFA and prevented women’s entry to the stadium under the pretext of Covid-19 protocols.
When asked to explain about the contradictory remarks, the Minister of Sports said, “I said what I had been told.” (The state-run Fars news agency – October 11, 2021)
Previously, on October 10, 2019, the Iranian Football Federation had allowed only a selective and very restricted presence of women in the stadium during the game between Iran and Cambodia. The measure followed the self-immolation of Sahar Khodayari, also known as the Blue Girl, in September 2019 in protest to the six-month jail sentence she received for circumventing the ban on women’s entrance to sports stadiums.
The International Football Federation (FIFA) must stand with the women of Iran and boycott the clerical regime based on international standards to safeguard women’s rights in this area.