Iranian woman, facing prison sentence, dies after setting self on fire for sneaking into soccer game

Sporting News

An Iranian woman has died after she set herself on fire when faced with a six-month prison sentence for sneaking into a soccer stadium dressed as a man so she could watch, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Sahar Khodayari, 29, died Monday after she drenched herself in gasoline in front of Tehran's Ershad Courthouse on Sept. 2 after she learned of the possible prison sentence. She was hospitalized with burns on 90 percent of her body and placed on a respirator until her death.

Khodayari was arrested in March and jailed for three days after she was caught trying to get into Tehran's Azadi Stadium to watch her favorite team, Esteghlal, face off against United Arab Emirates team Al Ain.

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In Iran, women are banned from entering football stadiums to watch men's games, a law that was enacted in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution. FIFA has said before Iran needs to resolve this issue before Iran hosts its first home World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

FIFA said Tuesday it was "aware of that tragedy and deeply regret it."

"FIFA convey our condolences to the family and friends of Sahar and reiterate our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran," the organization said in a statement.

Khodayari's sister told Iran's pro-reform Shahrvand newspaper that her sister had bipolar disorder and her father said she had stopped taking her medication last year.

Khodayari's death has prompted the hashtag "BlueGirl" to trend on Iranian social media, with many calling to end the ban on women being prohibited to enter soccer stadiums during men's matches.

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi, an outspoken critic of the ban, has called for fans to boycott Iranian soccer stadiums in protest.

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Iranian-Armenian soccer player Andranik "Ando" Teymourian, who played for Esteghlal and was the first Christian captain of the team, said one of the soccer stadiums in Tehran should be named after Khodayari.

Soccer isn't the only sport where women are either banned or segregated from the men in Iran — women aren't allowed to attend men's volleyball matches in Tehran, although they can in other Iranian cities.

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