On August 25, for the first time in 40 years, Iranian women were given access to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to watch a local league match between two well-known soccer clubs.
About 500 fans attended the emblematic stadium in the west of the country’s capital to watch the match between Esteghlal and Mes Kerman, in the Iranian Football Championship (Persian Gulf Pro League).
Videos posted on social media show women inside the stadium crying with joy, bowing to show their gratitude, as well as shouting and cheering for their favorite team. Most of the attendees wore blue jerseys and caps to support the local team, Esteghlal, one of the oldest soccer clubs in the country.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, women have been banned from entering stadiums since the 1979 revolution because the country’s arch-conservative clergy believe women have no place in stadiums with fanatical male fans and their vulgar slogans.
The issue has sparked a heated debate between the national football association and the International Federation for Association Football (FIFA), world football’s governing body. Hence, in recent years, under pressure from FIFA, the Iranian authorities have allowed some women to attend matches.
In September 2019, the world governing body ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers to be determined according to ticket demand.
A month later, for the first time in decades, Iranian authorities allowed some 4,000 women into Azadi Stadium for an international match against Cambodia.
In January this year, more than 2,000 female spectators at Azadi Stadium watched Iran’s national soccer team defeat Iraq, qualifying for its third consecutive World Cup. It was the second major soccer event that Iranian women saw at the stadium.
However, in March, authorities prevented women from attending the final 2022 World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Lebanon, in the holy city of Mashhad.
At the time, Iranian media said 12,500 tickets had been sold online, of which 2,000 had been reserved for women. The latest match marked the first time women were allowed to attend a match between two Iranian national championship teams.