HomeNewsFan EngagementFootballIran

Iranian women attend first football match in 40 years

TEHRAN, IRAN - OCTOBER 10: Iranian Women's fans cheer during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Iran and Cambodia at Azadi Stadium on October 10, 2019 in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images)

For the first time in 40 years, Iranian women have attended a home men’s national football team match.

Media reports indicate that over 3,000 women watched the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Cambodia from a special women-only section in the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. Women have been banned from watching men’s games since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution in the country, with only a few exceptions made on rare occasions.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino welcomed the development in a statement released after the game: “This is a very positive step forward, and one which FIFA, and especially Iranian girls and women, have been eagerly waiting for. The passion, joy and enthusiasm they showed today was remarkable to see and encourages us even more to continue the path we have started. History teaches us that progress comes in stages and this is just the beginning of a journey.”

According to the official IRNA news agency, Iran government spokesman Ali Rabiei said: “The (Iran) government has a positive view of the presence of women in stadiums.

“The infrastructure of Azadi stadium is ready for the presence of women. But the cultural and mental infrastructure must be ready.”

Infantino pressed Iranian authorities to open up stadiums to women for more games, saying: “FIFA now looks more than ever towards a future when ALL girls and women wishing to attend football matches in IR Iran will be free to do so, and in a safe environment. There can be no stopping or turning back now.”

He added: “I would like to thank both the IR Iran FA, the AFC and the authorities involved for their efforts and cooperation. FIFA will continue to work closely with them…Since I arrived at FIFA, we fight to see this objective fulfilled. But, above all, today I want to say a very big thank you and record our utmost respect to all of the Iranian girls and women who courageously stood and are standing up for their rights. FIFA fully supports them and will stand by them.”

The ban on women at football games became a major issue in recent months following the death of Sahar Khodayari, a female fan who set herself on fire outside a courthouse in Iran in September in protest at her treatment for attempting to gain access to a match.