Iranian soccer fans were left reeling earlier this week after eight members of the women’s national team were found to be men, the Al-Arabiya website reported on Monday.
Mojtabi Sharifi, described as an official connected to the Iranian soccer league, said that the footballers “have been playing with Iran’s female team without completing sex change operations.”
He claimed that some of the men had enjoyed a whole career as female players and only outed themselves just before retiring from their teams.
It was not clear how many of the national squad players were born as men or how long they had been playing before their surplus credentials were uncovered. Iranian female footballers notably play wearing hijab head scarves and outfits that fully cover their arms and legs.
Sharifi accused Iranian football’s governing body of being responsible for the “unethical” cock up.
Soccer is a popular sport in Iran with well established men’s and women’s leagues.
Iranian men playing as women has plagued the female leagues in the past. In 2014 the Telegraph reported that mandatory gender-testing was to be implemented after several players — including four in the women’s national team — were discovered to be men who had not yet undergone sexual reassignment surgery.
Iran is a world leader in sex change operations that became legal in the Islamic Republic after the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ruled in 1979 that they were admissible.