FIFA Urged To Eject Iran From World Cup Over Women Stadium Ban

The FIFA World Cup trophy and the official 2022 World Cup ball called Al-Rihla, which means “the journey” in Arabic, are seen on stage during the draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center on April 1, 2022. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)


FIFA on Friday faced calls to sanction Iran and even throw its team out of the 2022 World Cup finals over the Islamic republic’s renewed failure to allow women to attend an international football match.

Iranian news agencies this week confirmed that 2,000 women who had bought tickets for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Lebanon in the northeastern city of Mashhad could not enter the stadium.

Activists based outside Iran accused the authorities of using pepper spray at close range to disperse women who then protested the ban outside the venue.

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The United for Navid group of exiled Iranian athletes and activists, set up after the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari in September 2020, said Iran should be suspended from international football until it changes its stance.

“We formally request that FIFA immediately suspend Iran and prohibit its participation in the World Cup 2022 as long as the Football Federation of Iran continues to violate the Olympic Charter and FIFA regulations,” it said in a letter to FIFA’s deputy secretary general Mattias Grafstrom.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP Friday, it said that Iran had pledged to FIFA that it would end its policy of “gender apartheid” by allowing women to attend matches.

“But not only has Iran broken that promise by continuing to bar women from entering a stadium but women are beaten, abused and threatened,” it added.

United for Navid said Iran “continues to ignore” FIFA’s requests to show “basic adherence” to human rights.

‘Long Overdue’ 

Human Rights Watch meanwhile urged FIFA to demand that Iran urgently overturn the “discriminatory” stadium ban on women and ensure accountability for abuses.

“Given the Iranian authorities’ longstanding violations, FIFA needs to follow its own global guidelines on nondiscrimination and should consider enforcing penalties for Iran’s noncompliance,” Tara Sepehri Far, HRW’s senior Iran researcher, said in a statement.

The New York-based NGO said that under FIFA’s statutes discrimination on the basis of gender is “strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion”.

“It is long overdue for FIFA to demonstrate that it is serious in enforcing transparent accountability measures,” said Sepehri Far.

There was considerable criticism from within Iran over the lockout, including from Iran’s team captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and Mashhad’s governor apologised.

President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday instructed the interior ministry to look into the incident.

In January, women were allowed to attend an international for the first time in almost three years, for a World Cup qualifier against Iraq that also saw the Team Melli win its place for the finals in Qatar, the draw for which was taking place on Friday.

A FIFA spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday that it had learned with “concern” of the reports of women being barred after “historic progress” exemplified by the January 2021 match.

“FIFA expects this to continue, as there can be no turning back.”

Pressure on Iran to act had increased since the death in 2019 of female fan Sahar Khodayari — known as the “blue girl” after the colours of her favourite Tehran team Esteghlal — who set herself on fire in fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match in disguise.

Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestler who had won national competitions, was hanged in September 2020 in the southern city of Shiraz after being convicted of committing murder during protests that rocked the city two years before.

He had complained of being tortured into confessing, with methods that included beating and having alcohol squirted up his nose.


After AFCON Glory, Senegal Ushers In World-Class Stadium

Spectators sit in the stands of the Stade de Senegal during its inauguration in Diamniadio, a town about 30 kilometres from the capital Dakar, on February 22, 2022. 


Thousands of Senegalese gathered on Tuesday for the inauguration of a 50,000-seater stadium aimed at making the country Africa’s go-to venue for international events.

The stadium is in Diamniadio, a town being built about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the capital Dakar, for which an express train link opened in December.

The venue, to be named in honour of former president Abdoulaye Wade, will be the only one in Senegal certified for international football.

Current President Macky Sall said during an inauguration ceremony that the naming of the stadium was a “tribute to the multidimensional, intellectual, pan-Africanist politician”.



“This beautiful infrastructure — dedicated to young people — is an invitation to continue our path towards excellence,” Sall said.

The country’s last major stadium, Lat Dior, in the region of Thies 70 kilometres from Dakar, lost its certification from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in May last year.

Jubilant crowds came by bus and train for the inauguration, which follows Senegal’s dramatic victory at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on February 6.

The new stadium was built in just 18 months by Turkey’s Summa construction company, at a cost of 156 billion CFA francs ($270 million, 238 million euros).

Sall, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and FIFA boss Gianni Infantino were among the VIPs scheduled to attend Tuesday’s inauguration.

Am exhibition match will be part of the show, with Senegalese legends such as Aliou Cisse — the current coach of the national side — opposing a team of African all-stars, including Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast

“It’s a source of pride to have a stadium as beautiful as this Senegal. The country needed it to restore its footballing image,” said one fan, Bamba Dieng, 24.

“I’ve never seen such a great stadium. I hope it will be properly maintained so that it lasts for a very long time,” said Ibou Ngom, 29.

Mbaye Jacques Diop, a communications advisory at the ministry of sports, said the project was part of a programme to make Dakar a “sporting hub” for Africa.

It would mean an end to matches transferred to Asia because the continent lacked infrastructure, he said.

The first big competitive match will be on March 29.

Senegal, who beat Egypt for to take the African title, meet the Pharaohs again in a World Cup qualifier.

Senegal has launched a programme to refurbish its stadiums before Dakar hosts of the Summer Youth Olympics in 2026.

The country’s biggest sporting venue is the 60,000-capacity Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium built in Dakar in 1985.

Spain Lifts National Restrictions On Stadium Attendance

Spain supporters cheer ahead of the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium in London on July 6, 2021. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP


Spanish football clubs will be allowed to open their stadiums up to 100 percent capacity from this weekend after national restrictions brought in to combat the Covid-19 pandemic were lifted on Wednesday.

Local restrictions, however, remain in place which is likely to prevent cash-strapped Barcelona from throwing their doors fully open just yet.

The Spanish Inter-Territorial Council (CISNS), the body that brings together political leaders in charge of health from all regions of Spain, set the attendance limits for La Liga football, basketball “and other sporting events up to 100 percent outdoors, and 80 percent indoors”, it said in a statement.

The measures will run until the end of October when they will be re-assessed.

However, other measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask and to respect a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) between each person, have been kept in place which logically compromises the notion of matches taking place in full stadiums.

The application of this easing will depend on the health authorities of each autonomous region of Spain giving their consent.

Catalonia, the home of Barcelona and Espanyol, announced Wednesday that it will keep its attendance limit of 60 percent in open-air stadiums of more than 10,000 people.

The Basque Country, which has three La Liga clubs in Athletic Bilbao, Alaves and Real Sociedad, also announced Wednesday that it will keep its current attendance limit of 60 percent.

Spain was hard hit in the early months of the pandemic and more than 86,000 people have died of Covid-19.


CAF Confederation Cup: Enyimba Beat Rivers United Via Penalties To Reach Group Stage

Caption: Enyimba’s line-up against Rivers United in Port Harcourt today.


Goalkeeper John Noble scored the decisive kick as Enyimba Football Club of Aba beat Rivers United 5-4 via penalties to reach the group phase of the CAF Confederation Cup.

The People’s Elephant got into the contest with a 1-0 aggregate from the first leg in Aba. Cyril Olisema’s goal made the difference last week Sunday.

Rivers United had put the disappointment from the first leg behind them and were pumped up to impress at home and advance.

When action commenced at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, it was beyond a football match, it was a fight. Both sides went at each other and their intentions were clear; they both needed the win.

The pride of Rivers made it an interesting contest in the 42nd minute when Fortune Omoniwari scored. Malachi Ohawume had a good run into Enyimba’s danger area, just before he lost balance, he sent in a loosed ball, Omoniwari found it and blasted into the net of Enyimba.

Now 1-1 on aggregate. Game on!

Coach Stanley Eguma’s team took the lead into the break and tried to consolidate when play resumed but Enyimba covered their lines properly. The scoreline stayed the same and the game had to go into penalties.

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Bamba Bakary took the first kick for Rivers United and scored. Enyimba’s hero from the first leg, Cyril Olisema stepped up to the spot and scored. Defender Ifeanyi Aniemena scored the second for Rivers United while Samad Kadiri converted Enyimba’s second.

Kunle Odunlami missed the third kick for the home side while the ever-impressive Anayo Iwuala scored to level up the scores for Coach Fatai Osho’s team. Both sides converted their next two kicks until substitute Israel Emmanuel missed the sixth kick for Rivers United.

The responsibility to score the winning kick fell on goalkeeper John Noble and he stepped up to it and calmly sent goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai to give Enyimba the victory.

Enyimba will advance to the group phase of the CAF Confederation Cup and coach Fatai Osho struggled to express his joy.

“I’m overwhelmed by emotions. I want to commend my players for the victory. The pitch didn’t let us play our football but I’m glad the players handled it well. We are happy we are through to the next round”, Osho said.

Coach Osho further stated that the win is a morale booster for his team. “We are used to being in the group stage of the competition, it would have been a huge shame if we had missed out,” he concluded.




PHOTOS: FG Commissions MKO Abiola Stadium In Abuja

The Federal Government commissions the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja, the nation’s capital on June 12, 2020. Credit: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV


The Federal Government has officially commissioned the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

This comes a year after the Federal Government pledged to immortalise the late sports philanthropist and nationalist, Chief Moshood Abiola by renaming the stadium after him.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on June 12, 2019 announced the change of the name of the National Stadium to MKO Abiola Stadium.

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June 12 was signed into law as Democracy Day as a mark of honour to Mr Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

See photos below:


COVID-19: Real Madrid’s Stadium To Be Used As Medical Storage Centre


Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu will be used as a storage centre for medical equipment to help Spain’s fight against the coronavirus, the club confirmed on Thursday.

The 81,000-seater stadium will house donations made by businesses and organisations, particularly those that work in the sports sector, before passing them onto the Spanish health authorities.

“Real Madrid, in collaboration with the High Council for Sport (CSD), has launched a project in Madrid to supply and distribute strategic medical supplies to be used in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” read a club statement.

It added: “All of the stored supplies will be passed on to the Spanish health authorities, under the authority of the Spanish government, so that the resources, which are so necessary in the current health emergency situation, are employed in the best and most efficient manner.”

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Spain had recorded more than 4,000 deaths due to the virus, according to the latest figures on Thursday. Madrid is the country’s worst-affected area, with more than 2,000 deaths so far.


Van Dijk Fears Liverpool Will Win Title In Empty Stadium

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk acknowledges supporters during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Huddersfield at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 26, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP


Virgil Van Dijk fears Liverpool will be forced to celebrate their first English title for 30 years in an empty stadium as a result of coronavirus chaos.

All Premier League games have been postponed until at least April 3 due to the spread of the global pandemic.

Premier League chiefs are set to meet on Thursday to discuss if it will be possible to continue the season and, if so, in what format.

Games could be played behind closed doors, which would mean Liverpool, who are 25 points clear of second placed Manchester City, winning the title without their fans being present.

That is a depressing prospect for Liverpool defender Van Dijk.

“If we won it in an empty stadium and the fans weren’t there, I’d be gutted for them,” he told several British newspapers on Sunday.

“Obviously, if there are no fans at Anfield, then it will be a bit of a blow. No one wants to play games without the fans.

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“Until a decision is made on how we go on from here, then we just have to deal with it. But when it happens, we are still bringing the title to our fans, definitely.”

Liverpool could have wrapped up the title on Monday with a win at Everton if Manchester City were beaten by Burnley on Saturday, but both those games were postponed, along with the rest of the Premier League programme.

Some have suggested the season should be scrapped for safety reason, which would leave Premier League chiefs to decide if Liverpool should be given the title even though the campaign did not reach its scheduled 38-game conclusion.

Sport is expected to be subjected to further restrictions next week, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly ready to announce a ban on major public gatherings.

The sporting programme has once again been decimated on Sunday, although the Super League match between Castleford and St Helens, the All England badminton Championship and Olympic boxing qualifiers are still going ahead in Britain.


Racists Must Be ‘Kicked Out’ Of Stadiums – Infantino

(file photo) FIFA president Gianni Infantino has pushed for a worldwide ban on spectators who abuse black footballers. Mohd RASFAN / AFP


Racists must be “kicked out” of stadiums, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday, as he pressed for a worldwide ban on spectators who abuse black footballers.

Speaking days after England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria was twice stopped because of chants targeting English players, Infantino insisted the world body would punish racism.

“If there are racists that abuse footballers, we have to stop the game,” he told a press conference on a visit to Dhaka.

“We cannot let the racists win. The football has to continue and we have to punish the people,” Infantino said.

He added it was now easy to identify the culprits in modern stadiums with closed circuit TV and that a “strong message” must be sent.

“They have to be taken, kicked out of the stadium, they must not be allowed to enter into football stadiums any more, and criminal proceedings should be brought against them.

“It’s a crime and it should be a crime in all countries of the world to commit a racist abuse,” he said.

Infantino reaffirmed that if a country bans a spectator because of racism, “FIFA will extend it worldwide because racists have no place in football in any country and no place in any football stadium or arena in any part of the world.”

Six Bulgarians have been indicted for abuse at Monday’s Bulgaria-England game when monkey chants and apparent Nazi salutes overshadowed England’s 6-0 win. Three more are being sought.

One 18-year-old was indicted on Wednesday for using Nazi salutes and four others have been fined and banned from sports events for two years.

Infantino had already condemned the incident in a statement on Tuesday, calling racism an “obnoxious disease that seems to be getting even worse in some parts of the world”.

He said Thursday that on top of stadium action better education was needed.

“We have to educate our youth, our children and those who are a bit older as well,” he said.

Infantino also said that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar “will be the very best World Cup ever” despite new controversy over the heat and empty stadiums after the world athletics championships in September saw some long distance races badly affected.

The FIFA boss insisted that it would be cooler as the football tournament would be in November and December.

“I am sure in Qatar we will witness from a technical point of view, the very best World Cup ever.” He also expressed confidence that the stadiums would be “full”.

“Football is the number one sport in the world. We will fill the stadiums in Qatar and anywhere else in the World easily with the World Cup.”


Tottenham Extend Wembley Stay While Awaiting New Stadium

Tottenham’s plans to move into their new stadium next month have been derailed CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES


Tottenham announced on Wednesday they will stay at Wembley until at least the end of February as their frustrating wait to move into their new stadium goes on.

The Premier League home games against Watford, Newcastle and Leicester will all be at the national stadium as the finishing touches are put on their new 62,000-seater home.

The Champions League last-16 home leg with Borussia Dortmund on February 13 will also be played at Wembley.

Chairman Daniel Levy has apologised to supporters and hopes to provide a further update in the next few weeks.

The club are working with contractors and local authorities to determine a schedule for further testing and sign-offs, including the official test events.

Spurs are confident they will move into their own ground this season, with the home game against Crystal Palace in the middle of March a potential date.

“I should like to apologise to our fans and thank you for your continued patience,” Levy said in a statement on the club’s official website.

“The response from those who attended the familiarisation event was great to hear and reinforced our commitment to deliver an exceptional match-day experience for everyone.”

Spurs, currently third in the Premier League, were originally due to move into their new home for the start of this season before putting that back to September.

They have an agreement with Wembley to stay there for the rest of the campaign if necessary.


Spurs Announce Fan Event As Stadium Move Edges Closer

Tottenham’s plans to move into their new stadium next month have been derailed CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES


Tottenham have moved a step closer to finally opening their delayed new stadium after the club announced a “familiarisation event” for supporters.

The Premier League team have been playing their home matches at Wembley since their historic White Hart Lane stadium was demolished at the end of the 2016-17 season.

Tottenham had hoped to move into the 62,062-capacity arena on September 15, but the opening has been delayed twice by safety issues at the stadium, which has been constructed on the site of the old White Hart Lane.

Although the north London club will play all of their remaining home games this year at Wembley, they still hope to get permission to move to their new home in the next three months.

In a sign that the stadium is nearing completion, Tottenham revealed 6,000 season ticket holders will be allowed to visit the south stand of their new arena on December 16.

It will be the first event at the new stadium involving supporters.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said earlier this month that he is hopeful they will be playing in the new stadium by January or February.

And Pochettino on Friday admitted he is pleased to see progress being made.

“It makes me feel we are close to competing there. It’s an important thing for the fans to show our new home and it makes me very happy,” Pochettino said.


Beckham Celebrates As Miami Voters Approve Path To Stadium

David Beckham (file)


David Beckham was celebrating in South Florida on Tuesday after his dream of building a team in Major League Soccer took a notable step forward.

The former England captain’s push to bring a franchise to Miami has been hamstrung for close to five years with a suitable venue for a new stadium extremely difficult to find.

But voters in Miami on Tuesday came out in favour of a change in regulations that will allow his ownership group — Miami Freedom Park Group LLC — to negotiate a 99-year lease for the latest target: city-owned land at the Melreese Country Club, the city’s only municipal golf course, near Miami airport.

The measure voted on Tuesday, which allows for a no-bid process in negotiations, had a 60 per cent lead with 88 per cent of precincts reporting.

The 73-acre site is the fifth location put forward by Beckham, whose investment group consists of Jorge Mas and his brother Jose, owners of local infrastructure company MasTec, as well as Sprint chairman Marcelo Claure and SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son.

The saga has stretched on since February 2014, when Beckham first announced his intentions to own a franchise.

There’s much more work to do, yet the 43-year-old Londoner was delighted to have cleared the latest hurdle in what has been a torturous process so far.

“I need to say a big thanks to the fans who have stuck by us,” the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star told AFP after speaking emotionally in front of an excitable crowd in Coral Gables, many of whom were decked out in Inter Miami FC colours.

“Today is an exciting day,” Beckham said. “We have had a dream of bringing a team to this great city. We want to create a legacy, something our children will aspire to.

“But we also want to win. I am not coming here just to have a pretty team. Winning championships are important to me.”

Hurdles remain 

The next step, however, is far from straightforward.

Beckham’s group must now earn approval from four of the five city commissioners. Two of them — Manolo Reyes, a staunch critic of the plans, and Willy Gort, whose district includes Melreese — opposed the referendum earlier this year.

Furthermore, with the Melreese site built on a toxic waste dump which could cost upwards of $35 million to clean up, doubters have suggested the plans will encounter many more roadblocks before building permits are granted, something which must happen by November 2019 according to the previously agreed MLS expansion agreement.

Critics fear the clean-up costs could spiral and leave the taxpayers footing the bill — a daunting prospect after the uproar caused after baseball’s Miami Marlins Stadium fiasco left locals with a tab which has almost reached $3 billion.

Beckham’s lavish $1 billion, privately financed project will include a stadium complex as well as a huge shopping mall, a 750 room hotel, office space and a 58-acre public park.

Locals were encouraged to vote ‘yes’ to ensure jobs and other benefits for Miami including $20 million to help reinvigorate other public parks in the area.

MLS stress the team will begin playing in 2020 although it will have to be at a temporary venue, potentially at the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, or the Marlins baseball stadium.

“We will look at all options,” Jorge Mas said.


Collapse Of Wembley Sale ‘A Blow For Grassroots Game’

In this file photo taken on April 27, 2018, outside Wembley Stadium in west London, on April 27, 2018. Fulham owner Shahid Khan has withdrawn his offer to buy London’s Wembley Stadium, England’s governing Football Association announced on October 17, 2018.


The collapse of the proposed deal to sell Wembley stadium has been described as a “huge disappointment” and a missed opportunity by two of the biggest sponsors of grassroots facilities.

Fulham owner Shahid Khan had offered the English Football Association £600 million ($787 million) for the national stadium, as well as letting it keep the Club Wembley hospitality business, worth around £300 million.

But the American businessman withdrew his controversial offer on Wednesday.

FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn were both strongly in favor of the deal and wanted to use the money to fix England’s dilapidated changing rooms, waterlogged pitches and stretched 3G facilities.

They hoped Khan’s £600 million could be the catalyst for a total investment in community facilities over the next 20 years of £3.3 billion.

But in separate statements, Glenn admitted the proposed sale had been “more divisive than anticipated”, while Khan said it had become clear “there is no definitive mandate to sell Wembley”.

The UK’s largest sports charity, the Football Foundation, would have been the vehicle the FA used to pick, manage and fund the projects, as it currently does with the funding it receives from the FA, Premier League, and government.

“News that Mr. Khan has decided to withdraw his offer to buy Wembley should come as a huge disappointment to community footballers everywhere,” it said in a statement.

“Football participation in this country is huge. Unfortunately, those who play the game, simply for the love of doing so and for the health benefits, are having to put up with a stock of community football facilities that is in a shameful state.

“This would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make considerable inroads into probably the most pressing issue facing football in this country.”

Nick Bitel, the chairman of Sports England, the government agency that funds grassroots sport, also expressed his disappointment.

“We agree with the view that the Wembley Stadium offer was a huge opportunity to boost funding into the development and maintenance of artificial and grass pitches up and down the country,” he said.

“Now that this deal is off the table, we hope the football family will now consider other ways the much-needed additional funds for grassroots facilities can be generated.”

Former FA chief executive Mark Palios described the collapse of the sale as a “massive concern” for the grassroots game.