Women to Attend Football Match in Iran, Ending 40-Year Ban!

Cambodia

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

But under pressure from world governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association and women's rights campaigners, Iranian authorities earmarked around 3,000 tickets for them to today's World Cup Asian qualifier against Cambodia in the 78,000 capacity Azadi Stadium.

The Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) initially allocated 3,500 tickets for women after pressure from FIFA and human rights groups in the wake of protester Sahar Khodayari's death in September.

They had to sit well apart from the men, and the place was practically empty, but thousands of Iranian women in merry jester hats and face paint blew horns and cheered inside a Tehran stadium Thursday at the first Federation Internationale de Football Association soccer match they have been allowed to freely attend in decades.

"Her only "crime" was being a woman in a country where women face discrimination that is entrenched in law and plays out in the most horrific ways imaginable in every area of their lives, even sports", Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, had said in an official statement.

Four goals from Karim Ansarifard, a hat-trick from Sardar Azmoun and two each from Mehdi Taremi and Mohammad Mohebi did most of the damage to the Cambodians, though the result will much less historically significant than the attendance.

"We are so happy that finally we got the chance to go to the stadium". World football's governing body FIFA ordered Iran last month to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

There was also a problem that the toilet facilities were very scant, given the Azadi Stadium, built in 1971, had not expected to have to accommodate women. "I'm shaking. Thank you", she said.

"The passion, joy and enthusiasm they showed today was remarkable to see and encourages us even more to continue the path we have started".

Saudi Arabia past year allowed women for the first time to attend a football match as part of an easing of strict rules on gender separation by the ultra-conservative Muslim country.

"History teaches us that progress comes in stages and this is just the beginning of a journey".

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

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

"There can be no stopping or turning back now", he said.

When Iran's national soccer team takes the field on Thursday for an otherwise humdrum World Cup qualifier, there will be outsize interest not in the action on the field but in who is seated in the stands.

"FIFA fully supports them and will stand by them". Last October, around 100 "handpicked" Iranian women entered Azadi for a friendly against Bolivia.

But Poorbakhsh said she was aware of many other women without tickets and some were expected to travel from as far away as Ahvaz in southern Iran in the hope of still getting one.

In June, FIFA President Gianni Infantino wrote to the FFIRI to seek assurances that women would be allowed to attend 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

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