Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Iranian football fan dubbed 'Blue Girl' arrested for trying to watch men's game dies week after setting herself on fire

'Blue Girl' Sahar Khodayari died just over a week after setting herself on fire. Credit: Twitter

An Iranian female football fan dubbed "Blue Girl" on social media has died a week after setting herself on fire outside a court when she learned she may have to serve a six-month sentence for trying to enter a stadium.

The 29-year-old, named as Sahar Khodayari, was arrested for trying to sneak into watch her favourite men's team, Esteghlal, play.

Sahar was pretending to be a man and wore a blue hairpiece and a long overcoat when the police stopped her.

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

She earned the moniker for images which showed her dressed in blue, with blue face paint, mirroring the team's colours.

Women in Iran are banned from watching men's sports in stadiums, though they are allowed at some other sports, such as volleyball.

The semi-official Shafaghna news agency reported on Tuesday that she died at a Tehran hospital.

Sahar was a fan of Esteghlal FC in Tehran. Credit: Esteghlal FC

Sahar's picture at a game has been shared extensively across social media and #Blue_girl and #bluegirl have been trending.

She set herself on fire last week, reportedly after learning she may have to go to prison for trying to enter a stadium in March.

According to Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty service, Sahar reported to the prosecutor's office on September 1 and was told that she could be jailed for six months.

At that point, the poured petrol on herself and set herself on fire, suffering 90 per cent burns to her body. She had been on life-support since.

Amnesty International said Iran was the only country in the world to stop and punish women for entering stadiums.

"What happened to Sahar Khodayari is heart-breaking and exposes the impact of the Iranian authorities' appalling contempt for women's rights in the country," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director.

Masoud Shojaei, captain of Iran's national side, has been critical of the ban. Credit: AP

Esteghlal issued a statement, offering condolences to Khodayari's family

Masoud Shojaei, captain of the Iran national football side, was widely quoted last week as saying in a live Instagram post: "As we are shocked by old limitations set for women, the future generations will be astonished to [find out] that women were banned from entering sports arenas in our time."

Shojaei added: "The origin of such limitations is the rotten and disgusting thinking of the past, and will be incomprehensible for the next generation."

Her death comes as world football governing body FIFA is working with Iranian authorities to overcome the ban on women entering stadiums for men's games, in place since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many users on social media are calling for action - including potentially barring the Iran national side from playing.

FIFA wants the issue resolved before October 10 when Iran - the top-ranked team in Asia - hosts its first home World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

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

In a statement, it said: "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."