03/06/2015 09:56 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT

FIFA president Sepp Blatter asks Iran to end ban preventing women from attending matches

PARIS - FIFA President Sepp Blatter is urging Iran to end the ban on women watching football in stadiums.

In comments published in FIFA's weekly magazine ahead of International Women's Day, Blatter said that despite his efforts to convince Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to let women attend matches when he met him in 2013, "nothing has happened."

Iran is one of the few countries that block women from attending matches but has permitted female fans at some other sports venues in the past. In 2006, then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said women could attend matches in a special section of stadiums, but the decision was overruled by higher authorities. A year later, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi showed girls who dressed as men to sneak into soccer matches in Tehran.

"I raised the topic at my meeting with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, and came away with the impression that this intolerable situation could change over the medium term," Blatter wrote. "However, nothing has happened. A collective stadium ban still applies to women in Iran, despite the existence of a thriving women's football organization."

At the Asian Cup earlier this year in Australia, Iran players were reportedly threatened with punishment back home if they were to take selfies with female fans attending their games after pictures emerged on social media. Iranian female fans dressed in colorful fashion also showed up in numbers at stadiums during the tournament.

Blatter said the ban "cannot continue" and renewed his plea to the Iranian authorities.

"Open the nation's football stadiums to women," wrote Blatter, who is currently campaigning for re-election.

Blatter, who also attended the first women's football and leadership conference on Friday in Zurich, said the development of the women's game was a key element of his program.

"It's a game for everyone, no matter who you are, no matter where you are from," he said. "What is important is that we must have leagues in the different associations, and not only national teams."

Blatter also praised the International Football Association Board's decision last year to allow the wearing of veils and turbans during matches, a move that was facilitated by the organization of the 2016 women's under-17 World Cup in Jordan.

"This opened the door to football for millions of girls and women. Especially in the Arab world .... our sport plays a crucial role in efforts to promote integration and equality for women," Blatter said. "However, a willingness to reappraise the situation is not equally evident everywhere."

Qatar has promised that women fans are welcome when it hosts the 2022 World Cup.