For two years, Iran has given its female nationals unprecedented access to an arena to witness the country’s public football team play South Korea in a World Cup 2022 qualifier. “For the match between the public football teams of Iran and South Korea, the appearance of ladies has been confirmed,” AFP reported Monday. On October 12, the match will take place at Azadi Stadium.
The last time Iranian women were allowed to attend a football match was in 2019, when Iran demolished Cambodia with a 14-0 victory. In 2019, about 3,500 women were able to see the match in the 80,000-seat Azadi arena. Because of the spreading Covid pandemic, allies have been denied access to arenas for an extended time, regardless of gender (Covid-19). Despite this, the administration has routinely shielded female audiences, according to AFP.
It was a scene of abundance in 2019 when Iranian women took to the Azadi Stadium as supporters, with photos showing ecstatic spectators cheering their public gathering. The ban on female supporters was imposed in 1979, following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, when Muslim ministers stated that women should be protected from the masculine environment, unsightly male behaviour, and images of semi-robed males. However, according to FP, it isn’t written into legislation or standards.
FIFA has supposedly descended heavily on Iran for its extreme traditionalist attitudes, ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar – whenever the event is first held in an Arab country. This was most likely why female fans were allowed to attend the Iran-Cambodia match in 2019, despite the Iranian government’s denial. Instead, the public authority stated that the decision was made due to “internal societal requests and government assistance with those requests,” according to AFP.
Many Iranian women attended a football match openly without precedent for many years on Thursday, waving placards and taking photographs after FIFA started moves to suspend the country over its disputed venue regulations. Female fans rushed into a small section of Tehran’s Azadi Stadium for Iran’s 2022 World Cup versus Cambodia, wearing the public green, white, and warning around their shoulders and over their hair. Some wore vibrant caps over their headscarves, while others painted their faces in the flag’s colors.
Even before the event began, their radiant grins emphasized a day that felt great for the female supporters. Furthermore, the applause in the women’s portion grew louder with each goal scored by the Iranian team. Female spectators have been barred from accessing football and other sports facilities in the Islamic republic for nearly 40 years, with ministers arguing that women should be protected from the macho milieu and sight of semi-clad men. Last month, FIFA, the world football governing body, demanded that Iran allow women to enter stadia without restriction and in numbers determined by ticket demand.
Sahar Khodayari got herself on fire outside a court last month in fear of being imprisoned for attending a match, died due to her actions. She was dubbed “Blue Girl” after the colours of the club she supported, Esteghlal FC, and was allegedly detained last year while attempting to enter an arena dressed as a child. Her death sparked outrage, urging Iran to be sanctioned and its coordinates to be boycotted.
Approximately 4,000 to 4,500 women attended the game, which about 6,000 men also participated. At initially, just four sections of the arena were open to women, with roughly 3,500 expected to participate in the match; however, over 1,000 more were allowed to enter partway through. IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, had reported that 3,500 women purchased tickets in advance of the match. It is not the first-time ladies have visited football events in Iran. It’s the first time they have purchased tickets. Participants have been hand-picked by the experts in previous events.
Iranian female football fans, on the other hand, may have a lot to fight for. FIFA has asked Iran to allow women to attend all games and not have their numbers covered. The hashtag #WakeUpFIFA was used by pundits on Twitter to campaign for more tickets for women. “All restrictions on women attending football matches, especially native association games, across Iran should be lifted,” the rights group urged.