Women attend Iran-Iraq football match at Tehran stadium

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian women were allowed on Thursday (January 27th) for the first time in nearly three years to attend a football match of their country’s national team at a stadium in Tehran.

“I’m very happy. It’s the first time I’ve attended a match at the Azadi stadium,” said a 26-year-old civil engineer who went only by the name of Mahya. She carried the green, white and red national flag and covered her head with a gray scarf.

The Islamic republic generally banned female spectators in football and other stadiums from playing for about 40 years. The clerics, who play a major role in decision-making, argue that women should be protected from the masculine atmosphere and the sight of semi-dressed men.

World football governing body Fifa ordered Iran in September 2019 to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by ticket demand.

A month later, the women were able to watch a 2022 World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia at Azadi Stadium.

For the first match since then, 2,000 of 10,000 tickets were exclusive to women on Thursday for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers between Iran and Iraq, the ISNA news agency reported.

“I bought the tickets online and got a text message confirming it,” Mahya said, adding that “if we win, we will go to the streets to celebrate the victory.”

She got her wish as she saw a 1-0 home win against Iraq.

“There is nothing strange or complicated” about a woman going to the stadium, Mahya said.

“It should have happened sooner,” she said. “I hope this will continue.”

‘Blue Girl’

Female fans entered through a special entrance via a parking lot, controlled by female police officers wearing black chador dresses and red badges on their arms.

“I wanted to have my husband by my side but they said the men and women were separated,” said another spectator, Golnaz Bahari, 24.

“It will be much better if families can come together,” Bahari said, carrying her child in one hand and a vuvuzela horn in the other.

The Iranian fans sat behind the Iraqi goal.

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