'Iranian women will have access to their football stadiums soon’ – FIFA boss Infantino

'Iranian women will have access to their football stadiums soon’ – FIFA boss Infantino
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said Iranian authorities have assured him that women will soon be provided with access to football stadiums. They are currently banned from attending games.

The announcement follows reports that 35 Iranian women seeking to watch a game between local teams Esteqlal and Persepolis, which was attended by Infantino, had been denied entry to the stadium.

The FIFA chief received widespread criticism for attending the game, which explicitly highlighted the problem of gender discrimination in Iran. At the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion on Friday, Infantino addressed the issue by expressing hope that his trip would help to lift the controversial ban.

"I hope, I am confident, I was promised that women in Iran will have access to football stadiums soon," he said.

On Wednesday, one day before the scheduled game, Iranian women's rights activist Masih Alinejad called on her female colleagues to gather outside the stadium in an attempt to bring Infantino’s attention to the long-running controversy.

"The FIFA president will be in the stadium tomorrow (1 March)," she wrote. "I wish women would gather outside the stadium to ask men not to enter without them."

Women in Iran have been banned from attending men's football matches since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which replaced the country's monarchy with an Islamic theocracy, making society conform with Islamic ideals.

Last September, the Iranian Football Federation’s official website provided a ticketing option for female fans ahead of the World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Syria, but later cancelled the sale, citing an unknown technical glitch that allowed women to purchase the tickets.

A group of female fans who had bought the tickets for the game were told they could not enter the stadium. Syrian women were, however, provided with access to the venue to cheer for the their national team. Some of them did not wear a hijab, which is compulsory for all women in Iran, including foreigners.