Two Iranian soccer superstars and other players have sympathized with a young female football fan who set herself on fire on September 1, after being sentenced to jail for trying to enter a stadium and watch a men's soccer match.
Women are not allowed in Iran to enter stadiums and watch men’s sports. There is no written law for the ban but clerical, conservative judges and law enforcement officials prevent women from entering stadiums to watch men’s matches.
"The 29-year-old is suffering from 90% third-degree burns, and currently under life support," said the CEO/president of Motahari Emergency and Burns hospital this week in the Iranian capital city.
"They detained my sister on March 12, 2019, when she tried to enter Azadi Stadium, and watch Tehran's Esteqlal soccer club home match against the United Arab Emirates' Al Ain, FC," the sister of the girl (nicknamed as Sara) told locsl media.
Security forces arrested the woman, who has bipolar disorder and was under treatment. Immediately after stopping her, the security agents took Sara (alias) to the infamous Qarchak prison, in Varamin south of Tehran.
Sara was released later, but when she went to the prosecutor's office to collect her confiscated cellphone, she found out that a six-month jail sentence was waiting for her.
Enraged by the situation, Sara poured gasoline on herself and set it alight.
Meanwhile, the captain of the Iranian national soccer side, Masoud Shojaei and his teammate, Vorya Ghaffouri, have spearheaded a campaign in support of Sara.
"As we are shocked by the limitations set for women in the past, the future generation will also definitely be astonished by [finding out] that women were banned from entering sports arenas in our time," Captain Shojaei said in a live post to more than 400,000 followers on his Instagram accounts.
Shojaei added, "The origin of such limitations is the rotten and disgusting thinking of the past, and will be incomprehensible for the next generation."
Echoing Shojaei's insight, the Captain of Esteqlal soccer club, Vorya Ghaffouri also wrote in a post on Instagram, "This school of thought that ban women from entering sports stadiums is not justifiable," Ghaffouri insisted, expressing support for Sara.
Hours later, several other well-known players joined their colleagues on Instagram and voiced support for Sara, condemning the restriction on women.
In the meantime, Ghaffouri hoped for the unity needed to allow women to attend men’s sports events.
Iran is the only country in the world that bans women from sports stadiums. The unwritten law has been supported by religious conservatives and political hardliners in Iran since 1980, a year after the downfall of the pro-West monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Banning women from watching live soccer matches is against regulations set by the International Football Federation FIFA, which outlaw any sort of discrimination.
FIFA has given the Islamic Republic until October to pave the way for women to freely enter sports arenas and watch men's live soccer matches. Otherwise, Iran could face removal from all international soccer events.