Iranian football fan dubbed 'blue girl' arrested for trying to watch men's game dies after setting herself on fire

Charlotte Carter
Evening Standard
Iranian football fans have been campaigning for years to put an end to the ban on females entering stadiums: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
Iranian football fans have been campaigning for years to put an end to the ban on females entering stadiums: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

An Iranian woman dubbed 'blue girl' has died a week after setting herself on fire.

Sahar Khodayari, 29, set herself on fire after learning she could be imprisoned for six months for trying to enter a football stadium disguised as a man.

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Her death of has sparked calls for reform and comes as FIFA works with Iranian authorities to overcome the ban on women entering stadiums for men's football games.

Women in Iran have been stopped from going to stadiums to watch men’s sporting events since 1981.

FIFA wants the issue resolved before October 10, when Iran will host its first World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

Ms Khodayari died at Tehran hospital after suffering burns across 90 per cent of her body.

She had been surviving on a respirator since dousing herself with gasoline in front of Tehran's Ershad Courthouse on September 2, according to Iranian news website Rokna.

Her father told the news website she had just learned she could be tried by the Revolutionary Court and imprisoned for six months after attempting to sneak into Tehran's Azadi Stadium in March to watch her favourite football team, Esteghal, take on the United Arab Emirates team Al Ain.

Ms Khodayari disguised herself as a man, wearing a long overcoat and a blue wig, gaining the nickname 'blue girl'.

However, police arrested her after an altercation and arrested her.

She spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case. Upon returning to the court house to retrieve her mobile phone, she heard she could face prison time.

Khodayari's sister told Iran's pro-reform Shahrvand newspaper that her sister suffered from bipolar disorder. Her father said she had stopped taking medication a year ago.

News of her death ricocheted across Iran on Tuesday, with tributes hashtagged "BlueGirl."

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi - who played 127 matches for Iran and has been a vocal advocate of ending the ban on women - urged Iranians in a tweet to boycott football stadiums to protest Khodayari's death.

Iranian-Armenian soccer player Andranik "Ando" Teymourian, the first Christian to be the captain of Iran's national squad and also an Esteghlal player, said in a tweet that one of Tehran's major football stadiums should be named after Khodayari "in the future."

Female lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri called Khodayari "Iran's Girl" and tweeted: "We are all responsible."

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