Iran have been accused of playing a man as a goalkeeper for their women’s national team against fierce rivals Jordan who have demanded a ‘gender verification’ probe.
Zohreh Koudaei, 32, saved two penalties during the 4-2 shoot-out victory over Jordan in Uzbekistan on September 25, meaning the Iranian women’s team qualified for its first ever Women’s Asia Cup.
The President of Jordan’s FA, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, tweeted a letter ‘requesting a gender verification check’ on Koudaei from the Asian Football Federation (AFC).
The Iranian team manager has denied the allegations, claiming that the Jordanian team, who were heavy favourites, were seeking an ‘excuse’ for losing the match.
A spokesman of the AFC said: ‘The AFC does not comment on ongoing investigations and/or proceedings, whether actual or potential.’
Prince Ali, a former vice-president of FIFA, called it a ‘very serious issue if true’, and demanded that the AFC ‘please wake up’.
But Iran team’s selector, Maryam Irandoost, dismissed the allegation.
‘The medical staff have carefully examined each player on the national team in terms of hormones to avoid any problems in this regard, and so I tell all fans not to worry,’ Irandoost told sports news site Varzesh3 on Sunday.
The coach said that Koudaei had previously represented her country in Asian Cup qualifiers in 2008 and 2010.
‘We will provide any documentation that the Asian Confederation of Football wishes without wasting time,’ she added.
The Jordan Football Association’s letter, dated November 5, cited doubts over the ‘eligibility of a participating player’.
It also alleged that the Iranian women’s team ‘has a history with gender and doping issues’, and called for ‘due process’ to be followed.
Irandoost said the accusation was being used to cover up for Jordan’s loss.
‘These allegations are just an excuse not to accept the defeat against the Iranian women’s national team,’ she said.
‘The Jordanian team considered themselves the big favourite to qualify… and when they lost… it was natural to seek relief under false pretenses and to escape responsibility for this failure.’
Football is immensely popular with women in Iran despite hardline Islamic law which bans them from watching matches between men.
The Iranian national team has previously been accused of fielding men in the national football team.
In 2015, up to eight players in the squad were alleged to be men awaiting gender surgery.
The Iranian Football Federation had previously said it would bring in random medical testing to check the gender of its players.
Sex change operations have been legal in the country since the mid-1980s, when the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious ruling giving them the go-ahead.
The Ayatollah had been moved by the story of Maryam Khatoon Molkara who met him and described how she had been put in a mental hospital and forcibly injected with male hormones.
Khomeini issued a decree making sex change operations legal and protecting the rights of trans people.
The legality of sex change procedures contrasts with the country’s otherwise strict laws regarding sexual morality under the nation’s Sharia code, which forbids homosexuality and pre-marital sex
Tehran has been dubbed one of the world’s hub’s for gender reassignment operations and there are no legal barriers for trans people in the country.
The government even helps with money towards hormone therapy and surgery for those who want it.
The 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup is set to kick off in India in January.