DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The captain of the Iranian women’s soccer team will miss the Asian Cup tournament as her husband has confiscated her passport in a domestic quarrel, local media has reported.
The dispute between 30-year-old midfielder Niloufar Ardalan and her husband, sports journalist Mahdi Toutounchi, touches on the rights of women in the Islamic Republic. Under Iranian law, husbands can stop their wives from traveling outside of the country.
News of Ardalan missing the tournament came Monday, when Iranian news website fararu.com reported that Ardalan wouldn’t be traveling to Malaysia for the Asian Cup, which begins Thursday. Ardalan’s husband reportedly wanted her to be home for their son’s first day of school.
In an Instagram post Tuesday, Ardalan said foreign media was exaggerating her case, but also acknowledged she would be missing the tournament. She also made a call for Iran to change its laws governing married women’s travel.
“I am only a national soldier who fights to raise flag of our country,” she wrote. “I wish a law would be approved that allows female soldiers to fight for raising the flag.”
The dilemma of Ardalan, known by the nickname “Lady Goal,” has sparked social media chatter across Iran, with many demanding she be allowed to travel and play.
Women’s sports largely disappeared after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over time, however, they have gained popularity, especially soccer. Social customs still come into the game though, as the country’s soccer team plays its games with players’ hair covered by hijabs.
Two Islamic countries make the headscarf mandatory for women in public – Iran and Saudi Arabia. FIFA overturned a yearlong ban against players wearing hijabs in 2012.