London: Eight members of Iran's national women's football team are actually men awaiting sex change operations, according to reports.
A report in the 'Daily Telegraph' quoted an Iranian football official revealing the bizarre development. Iran's national football association was accused of being "unethical" for knowingly fielding eight men in its women's team.
"(Eight players) have been playing with Iran's female team without completing sex change operations," Mojtabi Sharifi, an official close to the Iranian league, told an Iranian news website, which has been picked up by the British newspapers.
The report said that Iranian authorities ordered gender testing of the entire national squad and leading league players on Wednesday. The names of the players thought to be male were not revealed.
The Iranian women's team play in hijab headscarfs, long-sleeved tops and tracksuit bottoms.
In 2014, the country's football governing body introduced random checks after it was revealed that four national team players were either men who had not completed sex change operations, or were suffering from sexual development disorders, according to the newspaper. In 2010, doubts were raised about the gender of the team's goalkeeper.
The newspaper said that gender change operations are legal in Iran though there are strict rules governing sexual morality, which forbid homosexuality and pre-marital sex. It also said that the full procedure of 'sex change' takes up to two years before the full gender transformation is completed.
Football is highly popular among many Iranian women, despite religious rules that bar them from entering stadiums to watch matches between male teams.
The Iranian national team is ranked 59th in the world and 13th in Asia.