Soccer might be the Beautiful game, but it’s global presence comes with some very ugly blemishes.
Racism, sexism and ignorance remain in the sport, and while it’s something many clubs and organizations around the world have tried to address, they still maintain a presence at every level.
Iran is just the latest, but not newest, example of how the Beautiful game is marred by ignorance.
The country has banned women from the country’s soccer stadium since the Islamic revolution in 1979, and will arrest any woman attempting to enter a stadium for a men’s soccer game. Two weeks ago we witnessed one of the horrible affects of that ban when Sahar Khodayari, known as the blue girl, set herself on fire and later died after being arrested for attempting to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran.
After news of the incident spread, FIFA got involved and issued a letter to the country, telling them to the lift the ridiculous ban.
“Our position is clear and firm.” wrote FIFA president Gianni Infantino in a statement. “Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran.”
With the country hosting a World Cup qualifier in October against Cambodia, there’s a bigger sense of urgency on making this change. After an inspection visit by FIFA over the weekend, Iran appears to have listened (at least for now).
“We need to have women attending – we need to push for that with respect but in a strong and forceful way and we cannot wait any more,” said Infantino at a FIFA conference on women’s football on Sunday.
“We have been assured that, as of the next international game of Iran, women will be allowed to enter football stadiums,”
While this is great to hear, it’s not enough. In 2019, four decades after the ban was first adopted by the country, it’s time to eliminate it completely.
According to Al Jazeera, the inspection showed “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the ban and letting women freely attend next month’s World Cup qualifier. FIFA also reiterated their position to Iranian officials regarding women being allowed to attend the matches.
Some hope remains that the total lifting of the ban could become a reality as, per Al Jazeera, “The body also said it would be working with the Iranian football federation to develop plans for women to attend domestic matches in the Iranian league, as well.”
This starting point needs to have a quick path to a finish line where all women are allowed to enter, and watch, any and all soccer games in each and every stadium across Iran.