Women in Iran will be allowed into a Tehran stadium to attend a men’s football World Cup qualifier later this year, a Sports Ministry official has said. “The women can go in the Asadi Stadium for the qualification match against Cambodia on October 10,” Deputy Sports Minister Jamshid Taghizadeh said on August 25, according to state news agency IRNA.
In June, FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino sent a letter to Iran’s soccer federation (FFIRI) saying the country must take “concrete steps” to allow women in stadiums or face sanctions.
Infantino did not say what would happen if Tehran refuses to lift the ban on women.
Activists and sports commentators have suggested that Iran’s national team — one of the top squads in Asia — could face punitive measures, including losing points in its bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar or even be excluded from that prestigious competition.
Iranian authorities claim women are banned from entering stadiums to prevent their exposure to swearing and cursing by male fans.
The decades-long ban has been lifted occasionally for select groups of female spectators.
Earlier this month, authorities in Tehran released four Iranian women from a detention center after they were arrested for allegedly dressing as men to circumvent the ban against women attending soccer matches, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The U.S.-based rights watchdog said that the four women were freed on bail after reportedly being charged with “trying to enter stadiums illegally.”