Iran on Thursday put the FIFA World Cup trophy on display for the first time, part of the trophy’s global tour ahead of the tournament that kicks off in neighboring Qatar in November.
The trophy display ceremony was held in Tehran’s Milad Tower hall in the capital, with hundreds of spectators looking on. They included city and football officials, veteran football players, and Dragan Skokic, the head coach of Iran’s national football team.
Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh, who captained Iran’s team in the 1998 World Cup in France, unveiled the trophy.
The trophy tour includes every nation that has qualified for the tournament.
FIFA and Iran have had a fraught relationship because of Iran’s history of barring women from attending games.
Activists called for FIFA to sanction Iran and throw it out of the tournament after it blocked women from attending a World Cup qualifier game in April. FIFA had long demanded Iran provide assurances that women would be allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Late last month, in a rare move, Iranian authorities allowed women to attend a soccer game at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Women have been mainly prohibited from attending men’s games and other sports events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran, the earliest qualifier, will start the World Cup as an underdog with games against England and the US, both ranked higher than Iran by FIFA. The games will be politically charged — both Washington and London have a tense relationship with Tehran.
It will be the sixth time that Iran plays in the World Cup in the nation’s history.
Qatar is also a controversial location for the tournament. The Gulf state has spent 12 years, since winning the World Cup bid, fighting to protect the hosting rights amid corruption investigations, regional disharmony and complaints over the conditions of low-paid migrant workers.