Though Iran football team set the field on fire 14 goals against Cambodia in World cup qualifier, all attention was stolen by a few hundred women fans who created history. It is the first time women were allowed to watch a football match in a stadium in nearly four decades in the Islamic republic.
More than 3000 women filled the rationed 4000 seats of Azadi stadium with flags and shawls of their national team.
The ban was lifted by Tehran after continues pressure from FIFA and women’s rights campaigners following the death of Sahar Khodayari last month, who set herself on fire to protest against her arrest for trying to enter a stadium.
Women on Thursday paid tribute to Sahar Khodayari, who is known as ‘Blue girl’ – her favourite team Esteghlal’s Colour, by chanting ” Blue girl, Blue girl”. Iran was the last country to have a stadium ban for women after Saudi waived off their law months ago.
A team of FIFA delegates monitored the match to ensure women were allowed without any interference from the state. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has urged Iranian authorities to open up stadiums to women for all games, not just World Cup qualifiers.
But many came out criticising the move as publicity stunt as only one-twentieth of the stadium seats were reserved for women.
“Iran’s decision to allow a token number of women into the stadium for tomorrow’s football match is a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities…” said Philip Luther, the Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International.