FIFA president Sepp Blatter urged Iranian officials on Thursday to end the country's ban of females from sports stadiums, according to a report from the Associated Press.The talks came as Blatter held meetings with Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and other representatives from Iran's government.
The nationwide ban, which has been in effect since the 1979 Islamic revolution, was an issue raised to Blatter by a top female government official in Iran during his two-day visit to the Iranian capital of Tehran, according to Breitbart.com:
"I had the opportunity this morning to speak with the lady vice president to ask that in the government they should try to change one of the cultural laws here that woman cannot attend football matches...I repeated this to the (conservative) speaker of parliament (Ali Larijani) and he said he will take it up...I did not intervene to change the law but, as the president of FIFA and defender of football in Islamic countries, I had to present this plea to the political authorities."
The rationale behind Iran's law is to keep women from stadiums filled with men so as to "protect [women] from lewd language that might emanate from the terraces," according to the report. During last year's European soccer championships, women in Iran were not allowed to attend live public viewings of the games. At the time, deputy police chief Bahman Kargar explained the justification:
"Men, while watching football, get excited and sometimes utter vulgar curses or tell dirty jokes."
The ban became the subject of a 2006 film, Offside, which showed Iranian girls disguising themselves as boys to sneak into Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a World Cup qualifying match that year against Bahrain. The year marked a possible move to a new policy for Iranian women, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had proposed permitting females at soccer games so long as they were located in a special section, but the idea was rejected by higher authorities.
On a related issue, FIFA's Board of Directors is set to discuss the issue of women being barred from wearing a traditional Islamic headscarf at a meeting in Zurich in February. WAHL: Houston Dynamo dump Red Bulls from MLS Playoffs in extra time