FIFA chief Sepp Blatter appealed to the Iranian authorities on Thursday to end the ban on women attending men’s football matches in force since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Blatter, who was wrapping up a two-day visit to Tehran, said that Iran’s top female official, Vice President , was among those he had raised the issue with but stressed he was not seeking to interfere in Iranian politics.
“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,” Blatter said.
“I repeated this to the (conservative) speaker of parliament (Ali Larijani) and he said he will take it up,” he added.
“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.”
Iran argues that its ban on women attending football matches in the same stadiums as men is necessary to protect them from lewd language that might emanate from the terraces.
The ban was even extended to live public screenings of games in last year’s European football championships.
“Men, while watching football, get excited and sometimes utter vulgar curses or tell dirty jokes,” deputy police chief Bahman Kargar said in justification at the time.
The ban was the subject of the award-winning 2006 film “Offside” by Jafar Panahi in which a group of young Iranian girls dress up a boys to sneak into Tehran’s Azadi stadium to watch that year’s World Cup qualifying playoff against Bahrain.
The film, which took the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix at the Berlin Film Festival, was partially shot during the actual game it depicts.
On the separate issue of women players being allowed to wear the Islamic headscarf, Blatter said that the final decision on a trial under way since July last year would be taken at a FIFA board meeting in Zurich on February 28.
“We are in a period of try how it works out,” he said, noting that “a lot of Islamic countries, like North Africa,” did not require women players to wear the headscarf.
The trial was launched last year at the request of the Asian Football Confederation. Iran was among its supporters.