Iranian women to see football freely for first time in decades

Ruben Hill
October 10, 2019

The woman, 29-year-old soccer fan Sahar Khodayari, had dressed up as a man to try to get into the game.

Federation Internationale de Football Association has previously threatened to issue sanctions against Iran in the event that it failed to allow women to attend matches; however, it's unclear exactly what those measures would entail.

Iranian women are set to freely enter a football stadium for the first time on October 10 as Iran hosts Cambodia in a World Cup 2022 qualifier at Tehran's Azadi stadiu.

Thousands of women have now bought tickets to watch the 2022 World Cup Qualifier against Cambodia.

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 in order to attend a match.

"I still can't believe it's happening because after all these years watching every match on TV, I'm going to be able to experience everything in person", she said. The law banning women was enforced after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Tickets for Thursday's match between Iran and Cambodia at Tehran's 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium have already sold out. She told news service AFP that she last stepped into Azadi stadium about 25 years ago with her father.

But some say it's not enough.

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.

"Iran's decision to allow a token number of women into the stadium for tomorrow's football match is a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities meant to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari's tragic death", Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, said in a statement.

After an inspection visit, Iranian officials were told of FIFA's "firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely" with tickets sold to as many as wanted to attend.

Team Melli and Angkor Warriors are in Group C of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round where they are joined by Iraq, Bahrain and Hong Kong. The organization said the ban breaches global soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination. "Federation Internationale de Football Association has a very firm stand - fans are equally entitled to attend matches".

An activist inside Iran told "60 Minutes" that women attending tomorrow's game is a "test step" in the "right direction". The organization's leader, who goes by the pseudonym Sara, told Reuters that numerous women who bought tickets to Thursday's match aren't actually soccer fans.

The bumpy road Iranian women have travelled in order to gain free access to stadiums has not been without tragedy. "It's not just about football".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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