Published: Thu, October 10, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Iran women freely at Federation Internationale de Football Association soccer match, 1st time in decades

Iran women freely at Federation Internationale de Football Association soccer match, 1st time in decades

Iran's World Cup qualifier against Cambodia later today will be a landmark match as women will be allowed to enter the football stadium in Iran for the first time in decades.

About 20 Irish women attended a World Cup qualifier in 2001, and four years later a few dozen Iranian women were allowed to watch the national "Team Melli" take on Bahrain.

Last month, Gianni Infantino said Federation Internationale de Football Association "cannot wait any more" for women to be allowed into Iranian stadiums to watch men's games and that he had been "assured" the authorities would relent ahead of this week's qualifier.

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.

"This is a hugely historic moment for Iranian football, but also for the Iranian women who have protested in the face of the risk of being caught and nearly certainly sent to Evin Prison, the famous prison for political prisoners in Tehran", CNN quoted football author and writer James Montague as saying.

Sahar Khodayari died last month after setting herself ablaze outside a court in fear of being jailed for trying to attend a match. However, the country bowed to pressure from football's world governing body, FIFA, which had threatened to shut the the Iranian national team out of competitions if women were not allowed to attend worldwide matches. Saudi Arabia recently began allowing women into soccer matches in the kingdom.

Amnesty also called on Iranian authorities to immediately drop all charges against women facing prosecution for attempting to enter a football stadium or protesting such restrictions.

"At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this".

In 2006, former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted women to attend matches to "improve football watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere".

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It still was not on equal grounds - women were allocated very limited tickets for the game.

"The infrastructure of Azadi stadium is ready for the presence of women".

On Iran's conservatively-controlled state television, which carried the match live, a shot of the cheering crowd included ecstatic women spectators.

Iranian authorities were moved to allow a quota of tickets to be sold to women following the shocking death of Sahar Khodayari, who became known as the "Blue Girl" for her love of the Iranian team Esteghlal.

"The number of women attending stadium games will only go up but there is a proviso - they will only do so in so far as authorities are able to maintain Islamic values, maintain public order laws that are in line with Islamic codes of conduct".

Iran is the world's last nation to bar women from soccer matches. In October, as many as 100 "handpicked" Iranian women watched a Bolivia friendly.

"They [women] are so excited they are going to the stadium", he said.

Amnesty said Iran's compromise was "a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities meant to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari's tragic death". "God willing, there will be freedom sooner so that they can attend all matches, not just the national team matches". Her death sparked an outcry, with many calling for Iran to be banned and matches boycotted.

After the match, Pashaei said she hoped authorities would open up more matches to women so she could attend them with her family.

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