Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration) Reuters

Whether it's a genuine preparation for its return to the embrace of the world community, a celebration of the lessening of tension, or a ploy to convince Congress that “change” is indeed in the air, is not clear – but Iran's ayatollahs on Sunday have given their permission to women to attend sporting events, from which they have been banned since 1979.

But not all sporting events, not at all times, and not in all venues. If a match is deemed “too manly,” the definition of which was left up in the air, women will be asked to refrain from attending. In addition, women will not be allowed to attend most soccer games and other outdoor sporting events.

A report on Iran's state-controlled television station Sunday quoted Deputy Sports Minister Abdolhamid Ahmadi as saying that the plan to allow “women and families” to attend games would come into effect next year. Iran has for years been condemned by FIFA, the international football organization, for banning women from attending the games. The Minister said the move had been cleared with Iran's religious leaders.

Iran has been in the running to host several international sporting events, only to find its chances to do so thwarted because of international protests at its ban. In November 2014, a British citizen of Iranian extraction, Ghoncheh Ghavami, was sentenced to a year in prison for demanding to be allowed to attend a volleyball match, a practice that had been permitted in Iran for several years, but was rescinded in 2005. She was pardoned last Thursday after a year in custody.

Although FIFA has issued several statements against Iran, it has not moved to boycott the country, and international soccer matches are held there on a regular basis.

In several weeks, however, the group will consider banning Israel. Last week, Jibril Rajoub, who chairs the PA's Football Association, filed a petition with FIFA to suspend Israel, claiming that Israel discriminates against Arab players, and refuses to allow teams from PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria to travel to and from Gaza.

Rajoub told Israeli newspaper Maariv that the PA will "fight to the bitter end" to get Israel booted out of international soccer organization FIFA.