In the Soccer World Cup qualifiers series, Iran and Lebanon met at the “Imam Reza” stadium yesterday, March 29, 2022, in the city of Mashhad. The game ended 2: 0 in favor of Iran. But the main confrontation took place not inside the stadium but behind its doors. The women, who had bought tickets to watch the game, were faced with violent confrontation of police. They were not allowed to enter the stadium. Pepper spray was used on the eyes of the female fans of the “national soccer team”. They were supposed to watch the game with those eyes, but they could not. Instead, they saw uniforms, batons, police weapons, and tears in their eyes.
AliAkbar Hashemi-Javaheri, Director General of Sports and Youth Organization of Khorasan Razavi Province, in the first reaction after the game regarding the ban on women entering the stadium said: “I am very happy that something very good happened in our province and thank God soccer fans left happy because it was a victory […] In general, Khorasan province, although it does not get a high score, but it gets a passing score. […] Given that Mashhad is the cultural base of the Islamic and Shia worlds, so some issues had to be anticipated. […] In general, the events of this game were arranged and managed by Tehran. […] We are happy nothing special happened! […] Instead of going into marginal banalities, we should focus on the fact that the national soccer team of the Islamic Republic of Iran had a powerful promotion to the World Cup. […] Mashhad received a passing score.”
At the same time, MohammadJavad Payendeh, Public Relations Manager of the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic, tweeted: “the lack of necessary structures for women to attend the stadium” was the reason for preventing women from attending. Of course, this structural restriction did not prevent the sale of tickets to women.
However, the Islamic Republic Football Federation, in a contradictory reaction to Payandeh’s remarks, today in a statement denied the presence of female spectators with tickets and announced only 9 women had tickets, whose, according to the government, tickets were for men’s seats. The other thousands of people who were greeted behind the stadium doors with pepper spray and police batons also made fake tickets. As always, the government has done nothing wrong and all the blame is placed on the people.
The governor of Mashhad, Mohsen Davari, also said in a press conference today: “A good and valuable event happened in our city yesterday. […] This was a very valuable achievement; We must thank all those who created this capacity. The necessary infrastructure was provided and Mashhad was selected for this match.” Here, the governor of Mashhad, unlike the football federation, does not consider the “necessary infrastructure” for holding this international match as a justification for preventing women from attending the stadium. He also confirmed all the decisions and orders were issued by Tehran. At the press conference, Davari made no reference to the violence perpetrated by the police against the women left behind the doors of the stadium, did not mention the use of pepper spray on their faces: “We allowed more people than the capacity to enter the stadium and we could not honor more!”
Translation of this post by Sahar.