The Korean Olympic football team arrives at the Teheran International Airport on 10:00 a.m. Sunday Korean time, for a qualifier match with Iran on Wednesday. The Olympic team recently completed a training session in Kunming, China.
Chosun - The Iranian government told the Korea Football Association last week that the 'Red Devils' -- Korea's enthusiastic football booster club -- would not be allowed entrance into Tehran's Azadi Stadium for the final Olympic qualifying match on Mar. 17.
The Iranian government said that because of cultural differences and security problems, it could not allow female fans into the stadium, and would therefore take that into account in deciding visas.
Iran, an Islamic nation, denied female Korean soccer supporters entry into the country under the pretext of preventing male soccer fans abusing them verbally and behaving badly.
The warning shocked the 'Red Devils'. Of the 150 supporters who were planning to make the trip to Tehran, no less than 41 of them were women. The fans were looking forward to confronting the home team fans to lift the spirit of the Korean football team. Azadi Stadium can accommodate nearly 100,000 spectators.
The fact that the Iranian government has suddenly changed its mind after initially signaling it would permit the fans to visit has the 'Red Devils' all the more infuriated. The club had planned on sending a special, extra- determined support group to Tehran. Moreover, to accord with Iran's stringent domestic laws, the female fans had their passport photos retaken wearing Iran's tradition Islamic head-coverings. They filled in completely Iran's remarkably stringent visa application forms (which required even your family tree). Hearing they would be denied entry into the country only a week before their scheduled departure, however, has left them speechless.
Some football officials, however, are casting doubts as to whether the change in stadium admission is really for of local cultural reasons. This is because Saudi Arabia, which is well known in the Middle East for its strict application of Islamic law, permits foreign women to enter its football stadiums. Iran, too, has let women into its stadiums before; in 2001, during its second playoff match against Ireland for entry into the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup finals (won by Iran 1-0), 300 Irish female fans were permitted entry. This makes blocking the female 'Red Devils' even harder to understand. There are, therefore, many who believe this is simply a psychological game being played, or Iran using its home-field advantage to act highhandedly.
One female fan said, "You don't know how much I've been looking forward to this road trip. It felt a sense of duty. Even if I have to appeal to Cheong Wa Dae, I want to find a way to make this trip happen."