Iran lifts 40-year ban on women entering football stadiums

Iranian women allowed to watch live football match

FIFA, soccer's governing body, ordered Iran to sell tickets to women for Thursday's match in Tehran's Azadi Stadium.

For the first time in nearly 40 years since the Islamic revolution, they can secure a ticket to the Azadi Stadium to watch a competitive men's national team game.

They have previously been restricted from entering sports stadiums due to religious rules which say women must not witness masculine behaviour.

Iran's World Cup qualifier against Cambodia on Thursday is more than just a football match, at least for Iranian women.

The ban caught the world's attention last month after Sahar Khodayari, a 29-year-old activist dubbed the "Blue Girl", self-immolated for fear of being sentenced for dressing up as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran.

Iranian sports journalist Raha Pourbakhsh shows purchased electronic tickets for the Iran-Cambodia World Cup 2022 match in front of Azadi stadium in the capital Tehran.

Under global pressure since Khodayari's death, the authorities have allowed a quota of tickets to be sold to women for tomorrow's game, though only four sections - totalling around 3,500 seats - of the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium have been allocated to women spectators.

Women in Iran are being allowed to freely attend a live football match for the first time in around 40 years on 10 October.

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"The women's visit to the stadium is the first success of their resistance to discrimination", tweeted Iranian politician Shahrbanoo Amani. She told news service AFP that she last stepped into Azadi stadium about 25 years ago with her father.

He added that, "the worldwide community, including world football's governing body FIFA, must also ensure that women are permitted to attend all matches freely and without discrimination".

The ban has been in place since 1979's Islamic revolution, with only small groups of women allowed to attend a handful of matches in recent years.

Amnesty has accused Iran of staging a "cynical publicity stunt" by allowing a "token" 3,500 women into Thursday's worldwide against Cambodia following a global outcry over a campaigner's death.

But Iran denied its decision to allow women into Thursday's match was a result of "foreign pressure".

In October, as many as 100 "handpicked" Iranian women watched a friendly against Bolivia.

But the ultra-conservative Keyhan daily said women were more concerned about economic issues.

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