FIFA says the presence of female fans at today’s (Thursday) World Cup qualifier in Iran is just the start of a push towards greater accessibility for women at stadiums in the country.
Joyce Cook, the governing body of world football’s head of education and social responsibility, claims that FIFA has a “very firm stand,” and that it will continue to push for continued access for women in Iran beyond today.
Women have been allocated 3,500 tickets, which sold out within minutes of going on sale, for the game at Tehran’s 90,000-capacity Azadi Stadium, where they will be segregated from their male counterparts.
Iranian women have been banned from entering football stadia for men’s matches for the past 40 years, with foreign women only having been granted limited access.
Cook told BBC Sport: “It’s not just about one match. We’re not going to turn our eyes away from this.
“We’re totally focused on making sure women can attend this match on 10 October and working just as pragmatically to ensure women also can attend local matches in league football – but it’s about what follows as well. FIFA has a very firm stand – fans are equally entitled to attend matches.
“At times there are these lines in the sand moments, to set a new era. We expect that the access for women into matches is also going to happen in the leagues as well. This is a moment for real change.
“We are firm and committed that all fans have an equal right, including women, to attend matches.”
Amnesty International’s Philip Luther said that only allowing 3,500 tickets to be sold to women for the World Cup qualifier was “a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image following the global outcry over Sahar Khodayari’s tragic death”.
Khodayari, dubbed ‘Blue Girl’, died last month after setting herself on fire while awaiting trial for entering a football stadium dressed as a man.
Luther continued: “Anything short of a full reversal of the ban on women accessing all football stadiums is an insult to Sahar Khodayari’s memory and an affront to the rights of all the women of Iran who have been courageously campaigning for the ban to be lifted.
“The international community, including world football’s governing body FIFA, must also ensure that women are permitted to attend all matches freely and without discrimination.”
Image: Fars News Agency