'Taking back what's ours': Iran's women to attend historic match

Iranian women allowed to attend football for first time in 40-years

Iranian women allowed to attend football for first time in 40-years

Iran's Azadi (Freedom) Stadium holds 85,000 people, but only 3,000 seats are allocated for women.

The initial allocation of 3,500 tickets for female fans was sold out in under an hour before an additional 1,100 were released for the match at the national Azadi Stadium in Tehran. The directive came after a fan dubbed "Blue Girl" died after setting herself on fire in fear of being jailed for dressing up as a boy to attend a match.

An unofficial ban on women entering stadiums had been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but came to an end as women flooded into the stadium to watch their side's 14-0 triumph. In recent years, it has been extended to volleyball and basketball as the popularity of those sports has grown.

A group of Irish women received special permission to attend a qualifier between Iran and Ireland in Tehran in 2001.

The change followed the death of a fan who had set herself alight after being arrested for trying to attend a match.

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino said more work needs to be done, but congratulated the supporters who attended.

The outcry quickly grew to include Iranian and global soccer players.

According to an AFP journalist, between 4,000 to 4,500 women watched the game, which was also attended by some 6,000 men.

Thousands of women watched Iran thrash Cambodia 14-0 in a men's 2022 World Cup qualifier on Thursday in a historic move welcomed by Federation Internationale de Football Association. "The worldwide community, including world football's governing body, FIFA, must also ensure that woman are permitted to attend all matches". If FIFA really wanted, this could have happened a long time ago.

"Further details on the next steps to be implemented to ensure the future access of women to the stadiums in Iran will follow once we have performed a thorough assessment of Thursday's match based on the input provided by the Federation Internationale de Football Association delegation that is present in Tehran". Those sold out nearly as soon as they became available. The bumpy road Iranian women have travelled to gain such access to stadiums has not been without tragedy.

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Once inside, the women will be segregated from men by both empty stretches of seats and metal fencing erected around the sections reserved for women.

"Part of me is happy, but they have basically created a wall", said Maryam Shojaei, the sister of Iran's national team captain, Masoud Shojaei, and one of the leaders of the open stadiums campaign. "It's not like everybody can go and sit freely with their brothers, fathers or husbands".

Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther claimed more needs to be done by the Iranian authorities to support women. "Of course, efforts by women activists and feminists were very effective", she said. The Islamic republic has barred female spectators from football and other stadiums for around 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men. But Iran denied its decision to allow women into Thursday's match was a result of "foreign pressure".

"Many say [women are being allowed to enter stadiums] under pressure from Federation Internationale de Football Association", she said. But at least one said she was willing to take the risk. "For all football matches", it said in a statement.

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