Eight members of Iran’s women’s football team are actually men awaiting sex change operations, it has been revealed.

Mojtabi Sharifi, an official close to the Iranian league, told an Iranian news website: “[Eight players] have been playing with Iran’s female team without completing sex change operations.”

On Wednesday, authorities reportedly ordered gender testing of the entire national squad and leading league players.

In February 2014, it was reported that four players had been removed from the national team squad after failing to be determined as women.  The Telegraph reported that it was because the players “were either men who had not completed sex change operations, or were suffering from sexual development disorders”.

In 2010, doubts were raised about the gender of the team’s goalkeeper.

Football Federation chief Ahmad Hashemian said after the 2014 revelations: “If these people can solve their problems through and be in a position to receive the necessary medical qualifications, they will then be able to participate in women’s football.”

Gender change operations are legal in Iran according to a fatwa delivered by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Sex changes are commonly carried out in phases in Iran, with the full procedure taking up to two years and including hormone therapy before the full gender transformation is completed.

Iran were briefly banned by FIFA from international competition in 2011 for wearing hijabs.[4][5]

Football is highly popular among many Iranian women, despite religious rules that ban them from entering stadiums to watch matches between male teams.

The Iran women’s team have never qualified for the World Cup or the Olympic finals, but they were runners-up in 2007 and 2011 at the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship.