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Jordan triggers outrage after accusing Iranian female footballer of being a man

Jordan's football association requested a gender verification check for goalkeeper Zahra Kodai after losing to the Islamic Republic in a women's Asia Cup qualifier
A gender verification investigation was allegedly carried out on Kodai, eventually dispelling accusations made against her (Screengrab/ Twitter)

An Iranian female footballer is receiving widespread support on social media after her gender was questioned by Jordan's Prince Ali bin Hussein.

The Jordan Football Association (JFA), which is headed by Hussein, penned a letter to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on 5 November after they lost 4-2 on penalties to the Islamic Republic in a women's Asia Cup qualifier on 25 September. 

In the letter, Hussein requested "a gender verification check" for 32-year-old goalkeeper Zahra Kodai.

Kodai saved two penalties as Iran beat Jordan 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out to qualify for the 2022 Women's Asian Cup for the first time in their history.

Hussein, a former vice-president of FIFA, called it a "very serious issue if true", and demanded that the AFC "please wake up". 

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"We understand that gender verification is not mandatory for participating players, however, the article reserves the right for AFC to investigate and take appropriate measures if there is doubt on the eligibility of a participating player," Hussein wrote.

The letter then proceeds to mention that the "Iranian Women Football team has a history with gender and doping issues."

Social media users widely condemned Hussein's remarks, with Jordan facing accusations of using the issue of gender to deflect attention from their performance.

Translation: "You must apologise to the Iranian goalkeeper immediately! A woman is not supposed to be stereotyped in a specific appearance or body just so that your honour can be convinced that she is a female!

Social media users also swarmed Twitter with posts of support for the goalkeeper, with some demanding an official apology from the JFA. 

Translation: "A person can be faulted in their morals but it is shameful to fault them in their looks, which they didn't choose. All the solidarity with the goalkeeper of the Iranian women's football team, against the campaign of bullying and mockery she was subject to from immoral people."

Translation: "It is embarrassing, shameful and deplorable what Zahrah Kodai was exposed to."

Speaking to the Iranian news agency Khabar Online, Maryam Irandoost, the coach of the Iranian women's team, said the conversation surrounding the goalkeeper's gender was "just an excuse not to accept defeat against Iranian women".

"After the Jordanian team's defeat, it was natural for them to try to calm themselves down under false pretexts," she said. 

The Iranian national team has previously been accused of fielding men in the national football team.

In 2014, four players were banned after failing gender tests. And in 2015, eight players were accused of being men, awaiting gender reassignment operations. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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