Opinion: A Proclamation for Football Equality Worldwide

If you’ve been online as of the last few days, you may have stumbled across two particular phrases, “blue girl” and “No Ban 4 Women.” 

These phrases have taken both football and Iran by storm, following the death of Sahar Khodayari, who lit herself on fire following a trial in Tehran for attempting to enter a football stadium while disguising herself as a man. 

In Iran, whilst not written in law, a woman is simply not allowed to enter football matches. As a result, FIFA must hold Iran’s actions accountable as Blue Girl is not the only example of women trespassing to football matches. Sahar Khodayari is simply an acclamation to the ongoing, brutal and unjust battle for football equality in Iran, something FIFA must act on.

According to DW Sports, multiple football clubs, especially in Germany), players and ultras (supporters groups) have showed signs of solidarity. One such example comes from the ultras of Fortuna Düsseldorf, who placed out a banner in the stands saying, “FIFA, you don’t care about us. Stop gender apartheid now!” 

The comments on any social media posts by FIFA are flooded with statements of solidarity for Blue Girl and pleads for FIFA for a call to action. This is not the first instance where FIFA and Iran have run into trouble, as according to Radio Farda just earlier in August, FIFA set a goal to the Iranian government to have a solution that allows women to enter stadiums by Oct. 10, 2019. 

We are roughly three weeks away from that deadline, and we have already lost a life to this heinous ban that takes the spirit and joy away from football. In a statement made by Union Berlin fans during a match, “Being a fan is a human right.”

I couldn’t have put those words better myself, no matter the sport.

Whether if you were an Italian who watched the scandal of South Korea versus Italy in 2002, or a migrant worker risking your life in inhumane conditions preparing Qatar for 2022, FIFA has lost fans over the last few years for multiple reasons, primarily corruption. 

According to Reuters, FIFA are planning a visit to Iran in the coming days, but not for the reasons you think. They plan to prepare for a World Cup qualifier match against Cambodia on Oct. 10, 2019. FIFA must act now and attempt to speed up negotiations and compromises with Iran if they wish to kill off a terrible stain on sporting culture and regain the faith of fans for their actions of the last few years in some way. 

As the governing body and face of world football, you cannot let this go unchanged. Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, has said before in a statement that Iran must take “concrete steps” in allowing women to attend football matches. The deadline to reach a compromise will be here shortly, and multiple fans including myself will be left hoping that they will find a solution to this, so that Blue Girl’s death won’t go out without meaning.

FIFA has a lot on their plate to fix, examples range from a Bleacher Report article saying that an Italian pundit was recently banned for racist comments on Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku to a CNN article reporting on the homophobic chants during a match in France. 

They have to start somewhere. FIFA and Infantino should feel more than pressured to focus on these issues, rightfully so.

Football is meant to be a sport that unites people of all races and genders, not to separate. Pele once coined it as the “The Beautiful Game”. Does the beautiful game also include misogynistic values and the separation of people by gender? 

FIFA is most famously known for their tournament, the FIFA World Cup, one that promotes unity through the game we know and love. In fact, back in 2014 for the Brazilian World Cup, fans voted on making the official slogan, “All In One Rhythym”.  

They repeated the same voting format four years later in Russia with, “Play With An Open Heart”. 

Will FIFA go against these slogans and continue to turn a blind eye to events that happen? A statement sharing condolences doesn’t aim to remember her, action for what she and hundreds of others in Iran did and are still doing does.