BY NANCY GILLEN.
Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has branded the decision to hold the Italian Super Cup match in Saudi Arabia as “disgusting” due to the country’s ban on women attending football games unaccompanied.
The tie between Serie A winners Juventus and Coppa Italia winners AC Milan will be held at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on January 16.
Due to Saudi Arabian restrictions placed on female football fans, women will not be able to attend the game unaccompanied.
Women can only buy tickets if they are situated in mixed gender family sections, with all other sections reserved for men only.
Salvini, the leader of Italy’s right-wing Lega party, has branded the decision to host the Super Cup match in Saudi Arabia as “disgusting” in a Facebook Live post.
“That the Super Cup is to be played in an Islamic country where women can’t go to the stadium unless they are accompanied by men is sad, it’s disgusting,” he said.
Despite being an AC Milan fan, Salvini announced that he would not watch the game.
“Where are the Italian feminists and Boldrini?” he added, referring to Laura Boldrini, the former President of Italy’s lower chamber and a women’s rights activist.
“I don’t want a similar future for our daughters in Italy.”
Boldrini had in fact commented on the decision on Twitter.
“Women at Super Coppa Italiana go to the stadium only if accompanied by men,” she tweeted.
“Are we joking?
“The lords of the football even sell the rights of the matches but they shouldn’t be allowed to trade women’s rights.”
Serie A defended the decision, however, claiming the situation in Saudi Arabia is progress compared to a year ago when women could not attend football games at all.
“Until last year, women in Saudi Arabia could not attend any sporting event,” head of Serie A, Gaetano Micciché, said.
“We are working to ensure that in the next games that we play in the country, women can access all the stadium seats.”
The backlash comes at the same time as the news that Iranian women will be allowed to watch a friendly between the Iranian and Russian women’s teams at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Last October, 100 Iranian women were allowed to watch the men’s national team friendly against Bolivia following pressure from FIFA, marking the first time women in Iran were allowed to watch a live football game since 1981.
Five hundred women were then permitted to join a 80,000 strong crowd to watch the second leg of the Asia Champions League final between Persepolis and Japan’s Kashima Antlers in Tehran the following month.
Despite the recent relaxation on the ban on female football fans, attitudes in Iran still remain hard-line with the country’s chief prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri describing the attendance of women at the friendly against Bolivia as “sinful.”
Iranian women have also struggled to attend volleyball games,
with a law in 2012 banning female spectators from the sport.