January 24, 2019

Iranian women allowed into top Tehran football match for first time in 37 years

Hundreds of Iranian women have been allowed to attend a top-league Tehran football match for the first time in 37 years.

An estimated 500 women – out of a crowd of about 80,000 – were permitted to watch the Asia Champions League football final in Tehran, separated from male fans.

Most were said to be relatives of players or members of women’s teams, but the move is being seen as a possible permanent end to the exclusion of women from top matches.

Football’s world governing body Fifa is working with Iran to halt the ban.

Iranian women and girls have not been allowed to attend men’s sporting events for much of the 39 years since the Islamic revolution, and have not had access to matches involving top clubs since 1981. But foreign female fans have been allowed to attend some games.

The semi-official news agency Tasnim said an unspecified number of women went to the Azadi [Freedom] Stadium to watch local team Persepolis play against Japan’s Kashima Antlers, but a reporter estimated the number of female spectators at 500.

The women joined in with chanting in support of Persepolis, Iran’s best-supported club.

In March, 35 women were detained for trying to attend a match between Persepolis and another Tehran team.

However, in June women were allowed to watch their national team play in the World Cup against Spain.

And last month about 100 women were allowed to watch a friendly between Iran and Bolivia, but restrictions were quickly reinstated.

Open Stadiums, a group that campaigns for access to venues for women in Iran, handed a petition to Fifa this week signed by more than 200,000 people.

Ending the exclusion “has been our dream for decades”, a spokeswoman for the group told the agency. “We are also excluded from public happiness and excitement.”

Kashima beat Persepolis 2-0 on aggregate.

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