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Gianni Infantino says women will 'soon' be allowed at games in Iran

Iran's President Says Non-Sports Issues Should Not Affect Sports

Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino was in attendance at the Thursday game between Tehran teams Esteqlal and Persepolis, where the women were held, the BBC reported.

"It's very clear that politics should stay out of football and football should stay out of politics", Infantino said at a joint news conference in Tehran with Iranian Sports Minister Massoud Soltanifar.

Iran has blocked several dozen women from attending a major Tehran football match witnessed by the head of FIFA, the sport's world governing body, prompting criticism from rights activists.

While Infantino did use the speech to tell Iran "much more can be done", that was in reference to the awarding of television rights.

Earlier reports said two women were held.

He was on a two-day visit to the country to take part in a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Iran's football federation.

"I was promised that women in Iran will have access to football stadiums soon", he said during an event at FIFA headquarters in Zurich.

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Infantino also held a meeting with Rouhani later on Thursday. "The solution is always just to play home and away like in every competition in every country", he said.

Women's rights activist Masih Alinejad on Wednesday called on women to attend Thursday's match.

The Swiss-Italian also shared the pitch with ex-Iranian stars in a futsal match before attending Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal, where Esteghlal won the match 1-0 in Tehran's Azadi Stadium.

Neighbor Saudi Arabia allowed women into a sports stadium for the first time in January to watch soccer, although they were segregated in the stands from the male-only crowd with designated seating. Men and women can not take part in sports together and are not allowed to be spectators at events involving the opposite gender. Women were among the fans who watched the Iranian men's national basketball team face Iraq on Sunday in a FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifier at the Azadi Indoor Stadium, adjacent to the outdoor football arena.

Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a prominent Iranian religious leader, has been one of the strongest supporters of banning women from sporting venues. "If a bigger impact is made by condemning, criticizing, accusing, sanctioning or if you can have a bigger impact by trying to convince the president of a country to give access to football stadiums for half of his population".

His visit has seen the OpenStadiums group - a protest movement of Iranian women looking to end the ban - calling him to act.

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