TEHRAN, Iran — In a rare move, authorities in Iran allowed women to attend a soccer game at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Thursday evening, local media reported.
Videos posted on social media show women inside the stadium as the national league game between Esteghlal FC, the second most popular team in Iran, and Mes-e Kerman kicked off.
The footage shows women waving blue team flags of Esteghlal and cheering from their seats, in a special area designated for women at the 100,000-seat stadium.
According to the semi-official ISNA news agency, 500 tickets were dedicated exclusively for women though it wasn’t immediately clear how many attended.
A news website, Asriran, said that four hours ahead of the match, tickets assigned for women sold for about $70 on the black market, compared to their official price of under $2.
Women have been mainly prohibited from attending men’s games and other sports events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Some Iranian women have been allowed to enter the Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a league match between Esteghlal FC and Mes Kerman FC.
This is the first time they've been allowed to spectate a league match. It comes after FIFA and AFC called for it in a joint letter. pic.twitter.com/qm8sdj0zGl
— Maziar Motamedi (@MotamediMaziar) August 25, 2022
FIFA has long demanded Iran provide assurances that women will be allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
In 2019 and for the first time in decades, for the Asian Champions League final, hundreds of Iranian women were allowed to watch Persepolis play Kashima Antlers of Japan in Tehran.
In January, more than 2,000 female spectators at the Azadi Stadium watched Iran’s national football team defeat Iraq in Group A of Asian teams, qualifying for Iran’s third World Cup in a row. It was the second major soccer event Iranian women watched at the stadium.
However, in March, Iranian authorities blocked women from attending the country’s last 2022 World Cup soccer qualifying match between Iran and Lebanon in the holy city of Mashhad. At the time, Iranian media said 12,500 tickets were sold online, of which 2,000 had been reserved for women.
But Ahmad Alamolhoda, an influential Friday prayer leader in Mashhad who was appointed by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he is against the presence of women as spectators in men’s sports competitions, calling it a “vulgarity.”