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Iranian women allowed to attend soccer match

China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-10 09:40

Iranian female fans in the grandstand during the international friendly match between Iran and Bolivia at Azadi Stadium on Oct 16, 2018 in Tehran, Iran. [Photo/VCG]

Thousands of Iranian women fans will be free to attend a soccer game on Thursday for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the country over its male-only policy.

Iran has barred female spectators from attending soccer and other stadiums for nearly 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and the sight of semi-clad men.

World soccer's governing body, FIFA, ordered the Islamic republic last month to allow women access to stadiums without restriction and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

Break a taboo

An Iranian female fan in the grandstand during the international friendly match between Iran and Bolivia at Azadi Stadium on Oct 16, 2018 in Tehran, Iran. [Photo/VCG]

The directive came after a fan dubbed "Blue Girl" died after setting herself on fire due to fear of being jailed for dressing up as a boy to attend a match.

Women were quick to get their hands on tickets to attend Iran's 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Teheran's Azadi Stadium on Thursday.

The first batch sold out in less than an hour, and additional seats were also snapped up in short order, state media said.

Those women lucky enough to attend will be segregated from men and watched over by 150 female police officers.

The Sports Ministry said the 100,000-capacity stadium - whose name means "Freedom" in Farsi - was ready to host even more women.

One of the 3,500 women to have secured a ticket was Raha Poorbakhsh, a soccer journalist.

"I still can't believe this is going to happen because after all these years of working in this field, watching everything on television, now I can experience everything in person," she said.

But Poorbakhsh said she was aware of many other women still without tickets. Some were expected to travel to the capital from as far away as Ahvaz in southern Iran in the hope of still getting a ticket.

There have been rare occasions in recent years when Iranian women have been allowed to watch matches, but this time they were free to buy their own tickets, albeit a set number.

People on the streets of Teheran said they supported the decision to allow women into stadiums.

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