Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Female football fan dies after setting herself on fire

Published:Wednesday | September 11, 2019 | 12:22 AM
In this December 9, 2011 file photo, supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal, hold flags of their favourite team, at the Azadi (Freedom) stadium, in Tehran, Iran.
In this December 9, 2011 file photo, supporters of Iranian soccer team Esteghlal, hold flags of their favourite team, at the Azadi (Freedom) stadium, in Tehran, Iran.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) :

An Iranian woman detained for dressing as a man to sneak into a football stadium to watch a match has died after setting herself on fire upon learning she could spend six months in prison, semi-official news outlets reported Tuesday.

The self-immolation death of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari has shocked Iranian officials and the public, becoming an immediate hashtag trend across social media in the Islamic Republic.

It also comes as FIFA is working with Iranian authorities to overcome a ban on women entering stadiums for men’s games, a ban in place since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. FIFA wants the issue resolved before October10 when Iran — the top-ranked team in Asia — host their first home World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.FIFA said Tuesday that 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,” FIFA said in a statement.

Khodayari died on Monday at a Tehran hospital after suffering burns across 90 per cent of her body. She had been on a respirator since dousing herself with gasolene in front of Tehran’s Ershad Courthouse on September 2, according to the Iranian news website Rokna, which publishes in Iran with government permission.

She had just learned she could be tried by a Revolutionary Court in Iran and be put in prison for six months, her father told the website.

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.

Prominent lawmaker Ali Motahari, who is close to Iran’s relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted that Khodayari didn’t deserve prison time and offering her “some advice” would have been enough.

In March, Khodayari tried to sneak into Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch her favorite team, Esteghlal, take on The United Arab Emirates team Al Ain. As in other matches, she disguised herself as a man by wearing a blue wig and a long overcoat, gaining the nickname the ‘Blue Girl’. However, police arrested her after an altercation and detained her.

She spent three nights in jail before being released pending the court case.

She reportedly returned to the court to retrieve her seized mobile phone and heard that she could face prison time.

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 soccer stadiums to protest Khodayari’s death.