For about 40 years, Iran had barred its women from accessing football stadiums to cheer up football matches in the name of shielding them from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.
Now for the first time in history, Iranian female football fans will be setting their feet in a football stadium on Thursday, thanks to threats from FIFA to suspend the Islamic republic over its controversial male-only policy. FIFA ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restrictions and in numbers determined by the demand for tickets.
This follows a public protest over the repressive laws in the nation that saw a 29-year-old Iranian female football fan Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire outside a courtroom after she was caught by police for trying to enter a Tehran’s Azadi freedom stadium while pretending to be a man.
“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,” said an Iranian Football Journalist.
Over 3500 female football fans rushed to get tickets to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Thursday, with a 100,000 sitting capacity all ready to accommodate more women. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have only had rare access to stadiums in Iran.
Although the ban on women in stadiums is not written law, it has been strictly enforced. While the whole idea has been warmly welcomed by reformists, conservatives insist that that football is not a priority for women.