Iranian referee hounded in home country for shaking hands with woman
Iranian football referee Alireza Faghani has been lambasted in his home country after he was spotted hugging and shaking hands with a woman during the World Cup in Russia.
Faghani, who officiated in four matches at the tournament, including the bronze-medal game between England and Belgium, was asked for an explanation by the Iranian Football Federation, which deemed his actions to be inappropriate.
Under Iran’s Islamic law, it is strictly forbidden for a man to touch an unrelated woman – except in an emergency. The friendly handshake of the referee was viewed as disgraceful and immoral by some of conservative Iranians.
“Such behavior in cyberspace is only natural,” Faghani said in explanation of the episode that was caught on camera. “This lady is a colleague of mine and is also married to one of my closest referee friends. I am sorry for those who are looking for a scandal in such a situation.”
After the criticism intensified, the referee’s tone became more assertive and he threatened to leave the country if people did not stop hounding him.
“I don’t understand this,” he said. “I have known her since 2013 and I am close to both her and her spouse. When we met she congratulated me for my judgments. If they want to create problems because of this, I tell you right now: I will leave… I will take my wife and my family and go.”
Iran has long been criticized for the rigid rule that prohibits women from entering stadiums with men.
Last month, Iranian authorities temporarily lifted the ban and allowed women to watch a World Cup football game between Iran and Spain in a stadium for the first time in 40 years.