Today, after a nearly four-decade ban on women attending soccer matches in Iran, the stands in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium were filled with female fans cheering on the Iranian national team as it crushed Cambodia 14-0. A qualifying match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the sparsely attended game probably wouldn’t have attracted much attention were it not for the relaxing of the ban by Iran’s theocratic government. As the AP notes, Iran was the last country to still ban women from matches.
Photos from the day show a jubilant crowd, albeit with a female police force surrounding the segregated women.
The occasion arose out of tragedy. Last month, a woman named Sahar Khodayari self-immolated in protest after she was arrested trying to enter a match in Tehran. On social media she was referred to as #bluegirl, a nod to the colors of Esteghlal FC, the local team she supported, reports the New York Times.
Reuters notes that is wasn’t until FIFA pressured the Iranian government that female spectators were allowed. It also appears that the ban will only be lifted for FIFA matches, not domestic league games.