Iranian Women Attend First Football Match In 40 Years

Iranian women watched the country’s national football team for the first time in 40 years on Thursday, celebrating their long-awaited access to the national stadium but also paying tribute to the ‘Blue Girl’ fan who died last month.
Iran, one of the traditional powerhouses of Asian football with a passionate fan-base, won their World Cup qualifying match against Cambodia by 14-0 but the one-sided game will be remembered much more for the scenes in the stands.

Waving flags, blowing vuvuzela plastic horns and displaying the team colors of red, green and white, over 3,000 women watched from a special women-only section in the Azadi Stadium.
Women have been banned from watching men’s games in Iran since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution with only a few exceptions made for small groups on rare occasions.

But under pressure from world football’s governing body FIFA and women’s rights campaigners, Iranian authorities earmarked tickets for women to watch Thursday’s game.

FIFA had sent a delegation to Tehran to ensure that women were allowed to attend the game following the death last month of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire to protest against her arrest for trying to get into a match.

Video footage of the crowd at Thursday’s match, posted on twitter, showed some supporters chanting “Blue Girl, Blue Girl.” Other video showed supporters chanting “FIFA, Thank You.”
Selling tickets for a women’s only section has been criticized by some campaigners who would prefer women to be able to attend matches with their male family members.
Campaigners also want to see women given access to all games, not just World Cup qualifiers which come under the direct responsibility of FIFA. Iranian women are not currently able to attend men’s games in their domestic club league.

The game was sparsely attended but an extra area, next to the designated women’s section, was opened for what appeared to be women who did not have tickets for the arranged area.

At the end of the game, the Iranian players ran over to the women’s section to show their appreciation for their support.

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