Iranian female football fans were left disappointed after a ticketing ‘technical glitch’ gave them hope that they could attend this week’s men’s Fifa World Cup qualifier.
Authorities in the country later blamed the technology for allowing any women’s tickets to become available for today’s (Tuesday) match against Syria.
Iran has long banned women from attending men’s football games, swimming and wrestling, and they are only allowed into segregated sections in stadiums to watch men play other sports including volleyball, basketball, handball and tennis.
Many women who assumed the ban had been lifted when the option appeared online bought up the tickets for the match at Tehran’s Azadi stadium, only for the Iranian football federation to say they were sold by mistake.
Several women who were outwardly elated with the opportunity to experience international football voiced their joy, with one woman saying she bought one even though she did not like football.
Zahra Jafarzadeh told reformist Shahrvand newspaper, according to the BBC: “I felt that if I didn’t sign up, I would be missing a major event.”
Others took to Twitter to express their shock and joy at the apparent lifting of the ban.
Iran’s football federation later released a statement citing a “technical glitch” and highlighting that there was “no plan to allow the presence of women in Azadi stadium for the Iran-Syria match.”
It added that all tickets bought by women would be cancelled and refunded.
Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian woman who was detained for four months after attempting to watch a men’s volleyball match in 2015, urged female fans to keep buying tickets for the match in protest at the stadium ban.
“The empty seats will represent our voice,” she wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, German international Sami Khedira bought 1,200 tickets for last night’s World Cup qualifier against Norway to give to disadvantaged children.
Tickets for the Germany game in Khedira’s native Stuttgart were distributed to socially underprivileged children and children fighting cancer in the region. The initiative was organised by Khedira’s foundation.
The Juventus midfielder said “it just came about for the national game here in Stuttgart. For me personally, it was important not just to give money, but that the kids themselves could get something from it. Most wouldn’t have had the chance to attend a game for various reasons, financial or logistical.”