TEHRAN: Authorities in Tehran cancelled plans to allow families to watch Iran's World Cup football opener against Morocco on Friday in the stadium and public parks of the Islamic republic's capital.
The Islamic republic is thought to be the only country in the world that refuses to allow fans to gather in open public spaces for the World Cup, possibly due to opposition to the idea of men and women watching together.
There had been excitement after officials at Tehran's Azadi Stadium announced that families would be allowed in to watch Friday's match together for the first time.
But Khabar Varzeshi, a sports news website, said the plan had been called off at the last minute without any explanation.
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However, it added that stadium officials were working to get permits for Iran's remaining group stage matches against Spain and Portugal.
Local journalists said they had also received a text message from the sports ministry, telling them that plans to erect screen in public parks had also been cancelled.
It was not clear whether cafes would be allowed to show the matches.
Iranian authorities were ridiculed on social media this week after a huge World Cup billboard was put up in central Tehran featuring supporters from different parts of the country -- but notably failing to include any women.
"A new billboard just went up in Tehran's busy Valiasr Square to welcome the World Cup and most importantly, let #TeamMelli know that they have the full support of the Iranian nation. For those wondering, there are no women in Iran," joked one local journalist on Twitter.
The billboard was quickly replaced with a new design that included women lined up alongside the Iranian team, which is nicknamed Team Melli.
Iran had an unbeaten run through the qualifiers, but faces one of the toughest groups in the competition, against Morocco, Spain and Portugal.