Some of the biggest soccer fan bases in the Islamic country are in fact women, who are not allowed to attend live sporting events. Why? Well, the “reasoning” is two fold: they must be saved from the vulgarities of a sports field. And they must be saved from themselves.
That is: What’s to say these women can be trusted with their perverse thoughts when ogling soccer studs sweatily chasing a ball on a field. That is of course why they want to go? No? Not because they have any interest in the game itself.
The fight has been ongoing. FIFA’s committee is involved and has been for some time, supposedly trying to lift the laws and bans on women and soccer just in time for the World Cup. But here we are, and… dololo. In fact, to make matters worse, soccer’s top official, FIFA president Gianni Infantino visited Iran earlier this year under the pretense of sorting all of this out.
But instead of finding himself at a cell where up to 35 women were being held for being soccer fans, he decided to attend the Esteghlal and Persepolis match instead, with the other men.
When Mr Intantino was enjoying a soccer match in a men-only stadium, Iranian female soccer fans who hoped to cheer their teams, wear their colours and show their support were being detained. Among them teenagers and women dressed as boys who attempted to sneak in to watch the game.
Until the ban is lifted, women will continue to sneak in, and they have done so since 1979 when the Islamic Revolution instituted the laws to begin with.
And some of them get it right. Like the handful of women with stick-on mustaches and more “manly” attire who got the gig just so. Armoured in fake wigs and beards and a healthy dose of “screw this ‘religious’ law”, the women managed to slip past security and watch their teams play at that very stadium. This time, the hundred thousand headcount was coloured by at least a few women and no one would have known, except… social media.
After the match, the victorious female fans shared their pictures and got a lot of support from the Iran-based organization OpenStadiums – a group dedicated to advancing women in sports. One of the main focus points of the group is to finally get Iran to a place where women can enter stadiums under their own identity. This has yet to happen.
In 2013, previous FIFA President Sep Blatter announced that after some talks, he was given the impression by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the “intolerable situation could change over the medium term.” Nothing came of it.
Then, two years later, in 2015, Blatter published a stern statement on the FIFA website stating firmly that the status quo could not continue and that all Irans soccer stadiums be open to women. And here we are, a further three years later, at the start mark of the 2018 World Cup and still, women fans in Iran have no dice.
Just last month, FIFA put in place its inaugural human rights policy, fully equipped with a human-rights advisory board. Article three of the policy is crystal clear: no discrimination against women is allowed - “discrimination of any kind… is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
So FIFA would be well within their rights to act and stand up to Iran by saying that should the country be unable to conduct themselves according to a set of global rules which permit women to enter matches, Iran will be banned from hosting any future FIFA events, which of course also has implications for the nation team entering the World Cup.
Yet here we are. The Iranian team arrived in Russia this morning, dapper and clad in blue tailored suits, ready for kickoff. But the ball remains firmly in FIFA’s court and they certainly seemed to have dropped it.