More than 3,000 Iranian women have crammed into a special section of a Tehran stadium to watch a World Cup qualifier against Cambodia, after they were allowed to buy match tickets for the first time in four decades.
Fifa and human rights campaigners increased the pressure on Iran’s sports authorities to let women into games after the death of a fan last month.
Sahar Khodayari, 29, set herself on fire outside a stadium after learning she might face six months in jail for trying to sneak into a match, reportedly disguised as a man.
Apart from a few token groups at three international matches, women have largely been banned from matches since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
The tickets for Thursday’s Iran-Cambodia match sold out within minutes, even after authorities quadrupled the number on sale. Those lucky enough to get tickets included a sports reporter who said she was shaking with excitement.
It was still a meagre provision, accounting for less than 5% of seats in the 78,000-capacity Azadi (“Freedom”) stadium. Footage of the match showed the male stands were mostly empty.
The small women’s section was packed with women draped in, or waving, the national flag, some wearing face paint and wigs in Iran’s red, white and green.
Since the Islamic revolution stadium access for women has been extremely rare and highly restricted. This is the first time tickets have been on sale to the public.
About 20 Irish women attended a World Cup qualifier in 2001, and four years later a few dozen Iranian women were allowed to watch the national team play Bahrain. Last October, around 100 “handpicked” Iranian women entered Azadi for a friendly against Bolivia. But a day later the prosecutor general warned there would be no repeat, saying it would “lead to sin”.
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