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Iranian female soccer fans kept waiting as all spectators banned from match

Women were expected to be allowed into the stadium for a match against South Korea, but federation now says no fans at all will be allowed to watch

Iranian women cheer during a soccer match between their national team and Cambodia in the 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Azadi (Freedom) Stadium in Tehran, Iran, October 10, 2019. (AP Photo/ Vahid Salemi)
Iranian women cheer during a soccer match between their national team and Cambodia in the 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Azadi (Freedom) Stadium in Tehran, Iran, October 10, 2019. (AP Photo/ Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian female fans hoping to attend a soccer match for the first time in two years will have to wait — Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier is to be played behind closed doors.

The match at Tehran’s Azadi stadium against South Korea is to be played “without the presence of spectators,” the Iranian soccer federation announced Sunday, in a statement carried by the state news agency IRNA.

No reason was given for the decision, which came just days after the state television-linked Young Journalists Club had said Iranian women would be allowed into the stadium for the South Korea match.

A year-long ban had previously been in force on all fans entering stadiums in Iran because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The last time women were able to watch a game at the 80,000-seat Azadi stadium was in October 2019, when Iran thrashed Cambodia 14-0.

Women were refused access to stadiums after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, officially to protect them from inappropriate male behavior. World soccer’s governing body FIFA has exerted pressure on Iran to allow women into international matches.

But Iran has only ever permitted limited attendance, capping it at 1,000 female supporters in 2018, although 3,500 women were able to watch the Cambodia game.

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