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Iran football fan who set herself ablaze was ill: father

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Tehran (AFP)

An Iranian football fan who set herself ablaze and died after being arrested for trying to defy a ban on women in stadiums was ill with a "neurological disorder", her father said.

Sahar Khodayari, 30, was reportedly arrested early last year when she tried to enter a stadium in Tehran dressed as a man to watch her favourite team, Esteghlal FC.

Dubbed "blue girl" because of the club's colours, she set herself on fire outside a court last week after being told she would be jailed for six months, various media outlets said.

"My daughter had a neurological disorder and that day she became very angry, insulting and fought with law enforcement officers," her father Heidar Ali Khodayari said, quoted by Mehr news agency late Tuesday.

Iran has barred Iranian women spectators from football and other stadiums since 1981, with clerics arguing they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

The judiciary said a young woman had been arrested when she tried to enter a stadium and faced charges of offending "public chastity and insulting" law enforcement officers.

It said no sentence had been issued against her since there had been no trial and the judge was away on leave.

Khodayari's death sparked outrage on social media, with many celebrities, soccer players and activists using the hashtag #blue_girl to call on FIFA to ban Iran from international competitions and fans to boycott matches.

But her father said she never received any support from such people when she was in hospital.

"During those days that she was in hospital, no celebrities, soccer players or relevant officials came to visit her. I didn't see anyone," he was quoted as saying by Mehr.

Khodayari did not "sacrifice" herself for any cause and had been influenced by friends, he added.

"I will never forgive those who abuse this event, and they are making a big mistake to speak out against the country because of her death," he said.

Iran has come under pressure from FIFA to allow women to attend qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, and was reportedly given a deadline of August 31 to comply.

The sports ministry said last month that women fans would be allowed into the stadium when Team Melli -- as the national team are known -- play their next home qualifier on October 10.

The ban on women in stadiums is not written into law or regulations, but is "ruthlessly enforced", said Human Rights Watch, calling it a "clear violation of the rules in FIFA".

A Iranian government spokesman said it agreed at a meeting Sunday on "the presence of women in sports clubs".

"Women can take part in all national games," government spokesman Ali Rabiei was quoted as saying Wednesday by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

"The conditions are moving towards the presence of women in league competitions," he added.

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