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Iranian sportswoman leaves the country as court rules in her favour

Court ruled in favour of the national women's futsal team captain to leave the country to attend a tournament despite husband's protests
Iranian women's futsal captain Niloufar Ardalan is pictured during a practice session in Tehran on 3 December 2014 (AFP)

A female Iranian football player whose husband barred her from travelling to a major tournament abroad has been allowed to leave the country for other matches after authorities stepped in.

Niloufar Ardalan, 30, who plays futsal - a form of five-a-side - missed the final of the Asian Championship in Malaysia in September.

The Iranian women's national futsal team ended up winning the championship following a victory over the Japanese side.

Ardalan, who is the captain of the women's team and is locally known as "Lady Goal", was prevented from leading her team at the final due to her husband's refusal to give his permission to renew her passport. 

Her husband Mehdi Tutunchi, a TV sports presenter, enforced his right under Islamic sharia law to ban his wife from leaving Iran.

Explaining his decision, Tutunchi said the games coincided with the couple's seven-year-old son's first day at school.

Ardalan took the matter to court, which ruled in her favour. 

She has since been granted a single exit visa by the judiciary that will allow her to compete for her country in a Futsal World Cup event in Guatemala from November 24-29.

Iranian state television's most popular football programme, "90" on Sunday announced Ardalan had left for Guatemala.

"Niloufar Ardalan accompanied Iran's national women futsal team to Guatemala," the programme stated on its website.

The team suffered a loss to Portugal in the opening group stage match.

Under sharia law, in force since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, a court can overrule a male guardian's decision relating to a daughter or wife.

"Niloufar Ardalan, who after problems with her husband missed the Asian championship matches, left the country without gaining his consent," the judiciary said on its news website.

"My presence in the national futsal team camp happened because of the prosecutor's permission and I have a single exit permit" on my passport, Ardalan was quoted as saying.

Ardalan had previously appealed for a change to the law that bars women from leaving home, let alone the country, without permission from their guardian.

"I wish authorities would pass a law for sportswomen so we can defend our rights in these circumstances," she told Iran's NASIM news agency in September.

Just as Iranian men who have not completed their military service get temporary permits to attend sporting events abroad, "something must be done for us women too," she said.

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