Over the past couple of months, the fight for gender equality has taken on various forms in the world of professional sports. From women’s teams requesting equal pay to secure the same prize money. The face of gender equality in certain countries does, however, have a much more cruel look than covering pay gaps. The death of the 29-year-old Iranian female soccer fan, Sahar Khodayari, recently shocked the world once again.
During the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, a law was passed which prohibited women of entering any stadium were male sports are being played. This is a law which FIFA has been trying to change through negotiations with the local authorities for a while already. The situation in which female soccer fans find themselves within this country, stepped into the limelight this week again with the death of Khodayari.
Over time, Khodayari has earned herself the nickname of Blue Girl. She managed to sneak into stadiums to watch her favourite teams play, dressed in a blue wig and a long overcoat. Unfortunately, during a match in March this year between the organization which she supports, Esteghlal, and Al Ain, representing the United Arab Emirates, there was an altercation in the stadium, and she got arrested by the police. The avid soccer fan was detained for a couple of days before her release awaiting her court appearance. Khodayari was suffering from bipolar disorder and has been off her medication for a while, according to her close relatives.
When she returned to the court to request the return of her mobile phone which was seized during her arrest, she was informed about the fact that she would be facing time behind bars for her offence. This news was devastating to her. Khodayari used gasoline to set herself alight in front of the local courthouse. She suffered from some severe burn wounds and had to be kept on a respirator in hospital. Sadly she did pass away this week from her injuries. The death of Blue Girl created an international outcry for the plight of women in this country.
Iranian World Cup Qualifier
Currently, the Iranian team is at the top of the ranks of the Asian division and Iran would be hosting the first World Cup qualifier on the 10th of October when they take on Cambodia. Therefore FIFA is pressed to get authorities to overturn the law prohibiting the attendance of women before then. The success which FIFA had this far, has been limited to having hundreds of female supporters present at a match in the Azadi Stadium, enabling them to see the Asian Champions League final. During this game, male and female supports had to sit separately in the stadium. Since Khodayari’s death, many have added their voices to this call for gender equality. These include the names of Andranik Teymourin, the Iranian-Armenian captain of the country’s national team, as well as Bayern Munich former midfielder who has played 127 matches for Iran, Ali Karimi.