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Meet the Iranian woman who dresses as a man to attend football matches

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By Emma Beswick  & Javad Montazeri
Meet the Iranian woman who dresses as a man to attend football matches

Zahra Khoshnavaz was not allowed to attend her favourite Iranian football team's matches because she is a woman, so she decided to attend disguised as a man.

The Tehran native cut her hair, donned baggy clothes and a fake beard and headed to Persepolis FC's stadium.

Her decision came about after the deadly November 2017 earthquake in Tehran.

"I asked myself: 'Why die in a quake and not realise your dreams? Why not go to the stadium?' So I decided to go."

Women aren't allowed to attend football matches in Iran, despite promises for change from Iranian authorities, in particular, Hassan Rouhani’s government.

Female fans can watch women’s football matches but not matches played by men.

Khoshnavaz has now attended two matches in her disguise and says she plans to go again, adding that she knows her actions could get her into trouble.

Khoshnavaz inside the stadium.

Even the Persepolis FC team coach Karim Bagheri told her so when they met.

"He told me: 'That’s good that you love Persepolis, but don’t do that again. It’s dangerous."

Was she scared upon entering the stadium?

"My only concern was how to buy a ticket — it was very difficult to go and ask for a ticket but when I went through the tunnel and saw the pitch I burst out crying," Khoshnavaz said to Euronews.

Such was the secrecy of her visit that the female supporter didn't cheer throughout the whole match.

She preferred to stay silent as her voice would have given away her identity and she found the vulgar football chants "impolite".

Khoshnavaz in disguise outside the stadium.

Pictures of Khoshnavaz in disguise were widely shared on social media, which made Persepolis FC aware of what she was doing.

Each time there's a match the now the club calls ahead to see if she's going to attend.

"They check on me," Khoshnavaz said laughing, "they call me to prevent me going into the stadium".

Women in Iran have been fighting for an end to the discriminatory rules surrounding attendance at football matches for some years.

Khoshnavaz doesn't want to attend football matches on her own and hopes stadiums will be open to all female fans soon.

"Ignoring the wishes of a big part of society just because there could be some future problems and saying that the infrastructure is not ready, is very very cruel and an injustice," she said.