Iran women attend Asian football final in rare 'victory'

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution women have not been allowed to watch men's football matches in stadiums

VAHID SALEMI APSince the 1979 Islamic Revolution women have not been allowed to watch men's football matches in stadiums

"It's a showcase match and for that to also be a landmark date when women would be able to see the game live in the stadium would be a terrific thing for Asian football to demonstrate progress, and for women who have waited so many decades to gain access to club matches there".

In March, 35 women were detained for attending an exclusively male football match.

Iran has disregarded previous pleas from soccer's worldwide governing body to open its stadiums to women.

Katayoun Khosrowyar, head coach of the U19 Iran National Women's Football Team, told Middle East Eye that "this is a step by step process, and in my opinion, it was a good step to take after 40 years".

Iranian women and girls have not been allowed to attend men's sporting events in the country for much of the nearly 40 years since the Islamic revolution, and have not been granted access to matches involving top clubs since 1981. Reports on social media said those attending the Persepolis game on Saturday were a hand-selected group who watched from a designated area.

Still, in a rare move last month, about 100 women were allowed to watch a friendly soccer match between Iran and Bolivia.

Female fans from other countries have, however, been allowed to attend some games.

After that match, women were rarely allowed to watch men's football in stadiums and in very limited numbers.

Despite its relatively secluded mode of existence, Iranian sports are in high regard all across the country. The national football team also enjoys huge support by fans, which is often the source of tension between female supporters and authorities.

Although there is no legal ban on women attending sporting events in Iran, they are often refused entry. We will do our best because the match is a good experience for this generation.

Access to stadiums for women in the football-mad nation has become a major issue, with thousands of female fans able to watch their team outside their homeland at the World Cup finals in Russian Federation and at other major events but frustrated by the restrictions at home. Apart from the open debate that is taking place, there have been also the continuous efforts of female supporters to gain entrance to matches by disguising themselves as men, wearing fake moustaches and beards.

Iranian women are actively involved in the game and the country is the number one ranked team in futsal in Asia, successfully defending their continental title in May with victory over Japan in the final in Bangkok.

And yet, the civil society is slowly becoming more open and liberal, albeit the power of the ruling government can still be felt across every walk of life in Iran.

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