Iranian women to attend football match in stadium freely for first time - GulfToday

Iranian women to attend football match in stadium freely for first time

Iranian women walk in Sadeqyeh Square in Tehran on Wednesday.

Thousands of Iranian women fans are to attend a football match freely on Thursday for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the country over its controversial male-only policy.

The country 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.

Sports journalist Raha Pourbakhsh shows purchased electronic tickets during the interview in front of Azadi stadium in Tehran on Wednesday. AFP

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.

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 to attend a match.

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran's 100,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Thursday.

An Iran fan gestures during a match in Doha. File / Reuters

The first batch sold out in less than an hour, and additional seats were also snapped up in short order, state media said.

One of the 3,500 women to have secured a ticket was Raha Poorbakhsh, a football journalist.

"I still can't believe this is going to happen because after all these years of working in this field, watching everything on television, now I can experience everything in person," she said.

'Blue girl'

But Poorbakhsh said she was aware of many other women enthusiasts left without tickets.

There have been rare occasions in recent years when Iranian women have been allowed to watch matches, but this time they were free to buy their own tickets, albeit a set number.

Using the hashtag #WakeUpFifa, women have taken to social media to demand more tickets.

Iranian women walk in Sadeqyeh Square in Tehran. AFP

While women have already taken up their entire allocation, only 2,500 men have so far purchased electronic tickets for the more than 70,000 seats available to them, ISNA news agency said.

Those lucky enough to attend will be segregated from men and watched over by 150 female police officers.

People in Tehran supported the decision to let women attend.

"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.

Nader Fathi, a businessman, said the presence of women could improve the atmosphere.

But he said "they will regret it" if they are exposed to "really bad swear words" and "bad behaviour."

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

Sahar Khodayari died last month after setting herself ablaze outside a court in fear of being jailed for trying to attend a match.

Amnesty International condemned the limited allocation of tickets for women as a "cynical publicity stunt" following her death.

"The Iranian authorities should lift all restrictions on women attending football matches, including domestic league games, across the country," it said.

 

 

Agence France-Presse