Iranian Women Finally Allowed to Officially Attend Soccer Match after 40 Years

Iranian women allowed to enter football stadium for first time in 40 years

Lack of interest? Tickets to the women's section were gobbled up in an hour, and Iranian officials did not offer more seats to women despite the rest of the stadium barely selling any tickets at all.

Some 4,000 women were in attendance as Iran faced off against Cambodia for a 2022 World Cup qualification match in Tehran's Azadi Stadium Thursday.

In 2006, former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted women to attend matches to "improve football watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere".

A delegation of FIFA experts had visited Tehran to discuss the measures created to allow women in the country to freely attend football matches.

"Part of me is happy, but they have basically created a wall", said Maryam Shojaei, the sister of Iran's national team captain, Masoud Shojaei, and one of the leaders of the open stadiums campaign.

She told news service AFP that she last stepped into Azadi stadium about 25 years ago with her father.

The journalist added that the decision to allow women into the stadium to watch a men's game is the result of years of efforts by women's rights activists who've been pressuring the world soccer governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association to take action.

Iran is the last country in the world to have forbidden women from attending football matches - Saudi Arabia recently lifted a similar ban.

"FIFA has a responsibility to respect human rights throughout its operations, and the power under its statutes to take definitive and urgent action to address a situation which it has allowed to continue for far too long".

"We're totally focused on making sure women can attend this match on 10 October and working just as pragmatically to ensure women also can attend local matches in league football - but it's about what follows as well".

For the first time in nearly four decades, women will be allowed to buy tickets and attend a match.

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Federation Internationale de Football Association feted Thursday's match as "a very positive step forward". "History teaches us that progress comes in stages and this is just the beginning of a journey", he added.

Karim Ansarifard scored four and Serdar Azmoun also hit a hat-trick in a one-sided victory for Marc Wilmots' side, who are top of Group C with six points from two games.

On Iran's conservatively-controlled state television, which carried the match live, a shot of the cheering crowd included ecstatic women spectators.

"There can be no stopping or turning back now", he said.

"I would like there to be freedom for women, like men, to go freely and even sit side by side without any restrictions, like other countries", said a woman who only gave her name as Hasti.

Still, even the limited concessions to female fans resulted in counter protests by Iranian hard-liners.

"FIFA fully supports them and will stand by them".

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran's 100,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Thursday.

Iran is the world's last nation to bar women from soccer matches.

The female fans did have something else to celebrate in the World Cup qualifier: Iran won 14-0.

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