Published: Thu, October 10, 2019
Sport | By

Iran vs Cambodia sees women allowed back into stadium

Iran vs Cambodia sees women allowed back into stadium

Iranian women flocked to a World Cup qualifier today as they enjoyed being legally allowed to attend a football match at a stadium for the first time in decades - and were treated to a 14-0 victory.

However, Iranian women are still not permitted to attend club matches, and the tragic story and death of the "Blue Girl" Sahar Khodayari shows that the struggle is still very real for women in Iran who simply want to watch the attractive game in person.

For the first time in 40 years women in Iran were allowed to attend a soccer match.

But under pressure from world soccer's governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association and women's rights campaigners, Iranian authorities earmarked tickets for women to watch Thursday's game. 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.

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran's Azadi Stadium on Thursday. Her death sparked an outcry, with many calling for Iran to be banned and matches boycotted. "I would like there to be freedom for women, like men, to go freely and even sit side by side without any restrictions, like other countries", said a woman who gave her name only as Hasti.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have only had rare access to stadiums in Iran.

Selling tickets for a women's only section has been criticised by some campaigners who would prefer women to be able to attend matches with their male family members.

An Iran fan gestures before their 2011 Asian Cup Group D match against United Arab Emirates at Qatar Sports Club stadium in Doha January 19, 2011. People in Tehran supported the decision to let women attend.

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". "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.

"The government has a positive view of the presence of women in stadiums", Rabiei said.

The bumpy road Iranian women have travelled in order to gain free access to stadiums has not been without tragedy.

Football's governing body Fifa responded by stepping up pressure on Tehran to meet its commitments to allowing women to attend World Cup qualifiers.

In October, as many as 100 Iranian "handpicked" women entered Azadi for a friendly against Bolivia.

Saudi Arabia previous 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. The day after, the prosecutor general warned there would be no repeat, saying it would "lead to sin".

"We are firm and committed that all fans have an equal right, including women, to attend matches". But the ultra-conservative Kayhan daily said women were more concerned about economic issues.

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