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      March 6, 2015

      Sepp Blatter Offers New Definition of Irony, Calls For Iran to be Less Sexist

      Sepp Blatter has a mixed history with women's soccer. On the one hand, he's been quoted for years saying "the future of football is feminine." On the other hand, he thought that future comprised of "hotpants" and sex appeal. Not to mention, the Women's World Cup is not shown the same level of basic respect as the men's tournament.

      Still, women's soccer has much bigger problems than hotpants and turf. One of which is in Iran, where women are not allowed to enter stadiums simply because they are women. There have been mass protests for years, but nothing has changed. After all, it's Iran.

      So it comes as a a minor surprise that Blatter, He of the Hotpants, has called on Iran to lift this discriminatory stadium ban in the latest, female-centric issue of FIFA Weekly. "A collective 'stadium ban' still applies to women in Iran, despite the existence of a thriving women's football organisation," he (or a well-compensated ghost-writer) wrote. "This cannot continue. Hence my appeal to the Iranian authorities: open the nation's football stadiums to women!"

      One way to react is with skeptical side-eye. Good on him and all—we've come a long way from "let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball"—but Sepp Blatter is one of the most powerful people in the world. He could do far more than write an op-ed in a prestige weekly that virtually nobody reads. A brief interview with The Guardian or the New York Times is far more likely to get serious attention, not to mention actually threatening the Iranian football federation with some form of sanctions if they don't comply.

      Blatter has made clear FIFA sees the Middle East as an area of growth. The Women's U-17 World Cup will be hosted by Jordan in 2016, and Qatar is still slated to host the 2022 World Cup. How relevant are those facts? I have no idea. I don't think anyone does, really, except for the people in the room with Blatter as he meets with various dignitaries and officials.

      For better or worse, I do think it matters what Blatter wants. It's entirely possible (and quite likely) this call for equality is a campaign ploy for the upcoming FIFA presidential elections and he has no intention of pressing the issue beyond the pages of his own magazine. That would be sad and depressing and a sign that little will actually change, which means it is probably correct. So for this briefest of optimistic moments, I'm going to willfully take the opposite stance and choose to believe Sepp Blatter actually did something good.

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