Atlanta: Iran’s World Cup qualifier against Cambodia later today will be a landmark match as women will be allowed to enter the football stadium in Iran for the first time in decades.
Initial 3,500 tickets for female fans were quickly sold out in about one hour and as a result, an additional 1,100 tickets were released for the match at the national Azadi Stadium.
“This is a hugely historic moment for Iranian football, but also for the Iranian women who have protested in the face of the risk of being caught and almost certainly sent to Evin Prison, the famous prison for political prisoners in Tehran,” CNN quoted football author and writer James Montague as saying.
“So everybody is aware of this problem but, of course, with issues like this, you are worried they might have sold 3,500 tickets for women but there will be multiple numbers outside trying to get in. It is a very changeable situation and at the last minute it could switch, so everybody is waiting, holding their breath and hoping that Iranian women will finally get to see the national team play a game of football in their home country for the first time in 40 years,” he added.
Earlier, Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) had reiterated its stand on allowing women entry into football stadiums in Iran.
“FIFA has reiterated its firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely and that the number of women who attend the stadiums be determined by the demand, resulting in ticket sales,” FIFA had said in an official statement.
A delegation of FIFA experts had visited Tehran to discuss the measures designed to allow women in the country to freely attend football matches.
Iran has barred female spectators from entering the football stadiums since 1981, as clerics have been arguing that they must be protected from the masculine atmosphere.
Earlier this year, an Iranian woman, Sahar Khodayari, who was denied entry to the football stadium, passed away after setting herself on fire.
Women are not allowed to watch football matches in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution however they can watch other sports like volleyball.
“What happened to Sahar Khodayari is heartbreaking. Her only ‘crime’ was being a woman in a country where women face discrimination that is entrenched in law and plays out in the most horrific ways imaginable in every area of their lives, even sports,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, had said in an official statement.
“To our knowledge, Iran is the only country in the world that stops and punishes women seeking to enter football stadiums,” it added.
Khodayari, had appeared in a Tehran court, where the case was adjourned. She then poured gasoline on herself and lit herself on fire fearing the worst possible verdict.
Ever since the incident, Khodayari got dubbed as the “Blue Girl” on social media after the colours of her favourite Iranian soccer team, Esteghlal.