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Iran Captain Sidesteps Women In Stadiums Issue

Soccer Football - World Cup - Iran Press Conference - Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia - June 19, 2018 Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and Masoud Shojaei during the press conference REUTERS/John Sibley
KAZAN, Russia, June 12 (Reuters)

Iran captain Masoud Shojaei said on Tuesday that the World Cup was the wrong place to discuss the issue of women being allowed to watch football matches at stadiums in the Islamic republic.

Iranian women are expected to be in the crowd at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday when their country takes on Spain, taking advantage of an opportunity not available to them back home.

A banner proclaiming "#NoBan4Women" and "Support Iranian women to attend stadiums" was held up when Iran played Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener in St. Petersburg last Friday.

Shojaei, though, told the official pre-match news conference that the debate was one that would be better conducted in Iran after the tournament. "We are a family, we are a nation when we are out on the pitch," he said through a translator.

"These are not just empty words. To talk about this issue now would be disrespectful to the tournament. "I prefer to solve our problems within our family and if we have the opportunity to talk about this later, we will."

According to media reports in Iran, Shojaei has previously offered backing to the lifting of the ban, which was imposed on women attending all sports events after the revolution of 1979.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)