Millennium Post

Iranian women watch football match for 1st time in decades

Tehran: For the first time in decades, thousands of Iranian women finally got a chance to witness a football game in their country.

On Thursday night, more than 3,500 Iranian women attended a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Tehran's Azadi Stadium where Iran thrashed Cambodia 14-0.

According to a BBC report, the women were granted access to a special women's-only section of stadium, which has a total capacity of about 78,000. Photos from inside the stadium showed female football fans excitedly waiving Iranian flags and cheering on their team during the entire course of the game.

"We had fun for three hours. All of us laughed, some of us cried because we were so happy," one woman posted on Twitter. "We had this experience very late in our life but I am so happy for younger girls who came to the stadium today."

In a statement, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: "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.

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

Women in Iran have been banned from going to stadiums to watch men's sporting events since 1981.

However, FIFA and human rights campaigners increased the pressure on Iran's sports authorities to let women into games after the death of a fan last month.

Sahar Khodayari, 29, known as "blue girl" because of the team she supported, set herself on fire outside a stadium after learning she might face six months in jail for trying to sneak into a match, reportedly disguised as a man.

Following the incident, FIFA sent a delegation to the country to "discuss measures designed to allow women in Iran to freely attend football matches".

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