Iran warns soccer stars over 'selfies' with female fans
Iran's footballers have been threatened with punishment for posing for "selfies" with female fans who have flocked to see them play in Australia.
The team are playing in the Asian Cup finals, and their games have been attended by thousands of Australia's expatriate Iranian community.
Sport and in particular football has a large following in Iran. The sex segregation rules that prevent women attending men's games at home do not apply abroad.
Nor do Iran's dress codes for women, so that officials back home have been alarmed to see photographs appearing on social media of celebrity players posing with Iranian women dressed for the Australian summer.
They have now received a warning from the head of the Iranian Football Federation's disciplinary committee.
"Players are not allowed to pose for selfies with female fans," Ali Akbar Mohamedzade said. "They [the women] may later use these photos for political ransom against our country or sue the players for harassment. If the players refuse to act according to our clear instructions then we will be left with no option but to deal with them."
Images showing "inappropriately dressed" women have been censored out of media coverage of the tournament back home.
On social media, however, some women have become well known, in particular one who replaced the central white strip of the national flag, which carries the national emblem, with a message saying: "Will Alireza marry me?" - apparently a reference to the popular goalkeeper, Alireza Haghighi.
There are 70,000 Iranians living in Australia, and thousands are following the team's progress in the tournament, which it has won three times in the past. It has already defeated Bahrain and Qatar.
The national coach, the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, once an assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, has also been questioned about the behaviour of his team.
"In some of the selfies that our players have taken with the fans, we can see they appear next to people whose appearance we regard as being against our moral principles," Mr Mohamedzade said. "I have had to contact the national coach and questioned him about this issue and he has explicitly denied having agreed to posting of such selfies on social networks." (© Daily Telegraph, London)