TEHRAN: The Iranian Federation of Kabaddi — a popular Asian sport — slammed a Thai coach on Wednesday after he reportedly dressed as a woman to sneak in to watch female matches.
Pictures of the unnamed man circulated on social media, showing him wearing makeshift headscarves in the stadium at Gorgan in northern Iran.
In some he was wearing a black headscarf and in others a white towel wrapped around his head. Some reports said he was ordered to leave once before managing to slip back in.
The stadium was hosting the Asian championships of kabaddi, a sort of cross between wrestling, rugby and the playground game of tag originating from the Indian sub-continent.
Iranian media identified the man, who was wearing a Thai sports kit, as the coach of Thailand’s team.
In a statement, the Iranian federation said the incident was “unjustifiable” and that the man had “violated the rules of the host country”.
The Islamic Republic of Iran bans men and the media from attending female sporting events, where strict requirements for women to wear headscarves in public are lifted.
A spokesman for the Iranian federation, Abuzar Markalai, told the website Jam-e Jam, that the Thai coach should “apologise for his disrespectful gesture towards women”.
Rumours spread on social media on Wednesday that the coach had actually been instructed to wear a headscarf, but this was denied by Markalai.
There has been mounting pressure to lift restrictions around women and sport in Iran, particularly the ban on women attending men’s football matches, which is officially in place to protect them from uncouth behaviour.
A similar ban on attending volleyball matches was introduced in 2012, though has been increasingly waived over the past year.