First time in nearly 40 years, women in Iran attend football match

Iran had barred female spectators from entering football and other sports stadiums, with clerics arguing women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men. Around 4,000 to 4,500 women watched the game, which was also attended by some 6,000 men.

Waving flags and snapping selfies

Waving flags and snapping selfies, thousands of Iranian women on Thursday attended a football match freely for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the country over its controversial stadium restrictions.

Elated female fans wore the national green, white and red flag around their shoulders and over their hair as they streamed into a tiny section of Tehran's Azadi Stadium for Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

Some donned sporty hats over their headscarves, while others painted their faces with the colours of the flag.

(Photograph:AFP)

Iran barred female spectators for nearly 40 years

Their beaming smiles underscored a day that felt victorious for the female fans, even before the match began.

And with every goal the Iranian team scored, the cheers in the women's section grew louder.

For nearly 40 years, the Islamic republic has barred female spectators from entering football and other sports stadiums, with clerics arguing women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

Last month, world football's governing body FIFA ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

(Photograph:AFP)

It came after death of 'Blue Girl'

That came after the death of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself ablaze last month outside a court in fear of being jailed for trying to attend a match.

Dubbed "Blue Girl" because of the colours of the club she supported -- Esteghlal FC -- she had reportedly been detained last year when trying to enter a stadium dressed as a boy.

Her death sparked an outcry, with many calling for Iran to be banned and matches boycotted.

"FIFA now looks more than ever towards a future when ALL girls and women wishing to attend football matches in... Iran will be free to do so, and in a safe environment," FIFA said.

(Photograph:AFP)

Around 4,000 to 4,500 women watched the game

Around 4,000 to 4,500 women watched the game, which was also attended by some 6,000 men.

Initially, only four sections of the stadium were opened to women, allowing for some 3,500 to attend the match, but nearly a thousand more were granted entrance halfway through.

State news agency IRNA had earlier reported that 3,500 women purchased tickets ahead of the match.

While it is not the first time women have attended football matches in Iran, it is the first time they have been allowed to buy tickets. 

On previous occasions, attendees have been handpicked by the authorities.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

Iranian female football fans still have a lot to fight for

But Iranian female football fans may still have a lot to fight for.

FIFA has demanded that Iran allow women to attend all games and not place caps on their numbers.

On Twitter, critics had used the hashtag #WakeUpFIFA to campaign for more tickets for women.

"The Iranian authorities should lift all restrictions on women attending football matches, including domestic league games, across the country," the rights group said.

(Photograph:AFP)

Iran thrash Cambodia 14-0

Iran handed Cambodia a record-breaking 14-0 thrashing on an historic day in Tehran as goals flowed in World Cup qualifiers across Asia with Japan, South Korea and Australia securing comfortable wins

Striker Karim Ansarifard scored four times and Sardar Azmoun netted a hat-trick for Iran who claimed a second straight win in Group C.

Iran, five-times World Cup qualifiers, lead their group with six points from two games, two points ahead of second-placed Iraq who beat Hong Kong 2-0.

(Photograph:AFP)