In Summary
  • While it is not the first time women have attended football matches in Iran, it is the first time they have been allowed to buy tickets.
  • On previous occasions, attendees have been handpicked by the authorities.

TEHRAN

Waving flags and snapping selfies, thousands of Iranian women on Thursday attended a football match freely for the first time in decades, after Fifa threatened to suspend the country over its controversial stadium restrictions.

Elated female fans wore the national green, white and red flag around their shoulders and over their hair as they streamed into a tiny section of Tehran's 100,000-capacity Azadi Stadium for Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia.

Some donned sporty hats over their headscarves, while others painted their faces with the colours of the flag.

Their beaming smiles underscored a day that felt victorious for Iranian women, even before the match began.

And with every goal the Iranian team scored, the cheers in the women's section grew louder.

By the middle of the second half, Iran was leading with a blowout of 9-0.

For nearly 40 years, the Islamic republic has barred female spectators from entering football and other sports stadiums, with clerics arguing women must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men.

'BLUE GIRL'

Last month, world football's governing body Fifa ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

That came after the death of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself ablaze last month outside a court in fear of being jailed for trying to attend a match.

Dubbed "Blue Girl" because of the colours of the club she supported -- Esteghlal FC -- she had reportedly been detained last year when trying to enter a stadium dressed as a boy.

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