The president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international soccer governing body, has called on Iran to end its discriminatory practice that prevents women from watching soccer matches in stadiums. "A collective 'stadium ban' still applies to women in Iran, despite the existence of a thriving women’s football organization," Sepp Blatter wrote in the March 6 edition of the FIFA weekly. "This cannot continue," he added.
"Open the nation's football stadiums to women!" Blatter appealed in his letter. He pointed out that after visiting Iran in November 2013 and discovering that women could not attend football matches in stadiums, he had raised the issue of the ban in a meeting with the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. He left the meeting believing "that this intolerable situation could change over the medium term. However, nothing has happened," Blatter said.
Iran has its own women's national football team, although it was marked by scandal in 2014 when four of its players were discovered to be not fully female -- men who were undergoing sex changes or who had sexual development disorders. The country is vying against the United Arab Emirates in a bid to host the 2019 Asia Cup, but its ban on women in stadiums could hurt its chances of winning, Reuters reported.
At this year's Asia Cup, hosted in Australia in January, thousands of women from Iran arrived to watch the matches, according to the Guardian, and they were free from restrictions on how to dress.
"Our sport plays a crucial role in efforts to promote integration and equality for women," Blatter wrote. He pointed out that a decision by the International Football Association Board in 2014 that allowed women to wear the hijab, or headscarf, in official football matches "opened the door to football for millions of girls and women."
FIFA is holding a conference Friday on women's football and leadership in Zurich, in celebration of International Women's Day, marked Sunday.