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Iran Says At Least 3,500 Women Fans 'Guaranteed' For Tehran Soccer Match


Iranian women watch a soccer match at Azadi Stadium in Tehran in 2018, one of the rare times they were allowed inside a stadium while men competed.

Iran has "guaranteed" that at least 3,500 female fans will be allowed into the stadium for an upcoming soccer match with Cambodia amid the "explicit demand" of the sport's global governing body.

State-run IRNA news agency said on October 4 in "conforming to the promises of the [Iranian] Football Federation and the explicit demand of FIFA, Iranian women can attend the match" on October 10 at Tehran's Azadi Stadium.

The ticket office had initially set up one section of the stands for female spectators, but IRNA reported that "the tickets sold out in less than an hour," leading officials to increase seating for women at the 2022 World Cup qualifier match.

When three additional sections were set aside, those seats sold out "straight away," meaning "the presence of 3,500 female Iranian fans is guaranteed,” IRNA reported.

Reuters quoted FIFA officials as saying they had been informed that a total of 4,600 tickets for women will be made available but that they expect more will be put on sale to meet the increasing demand.

The stadium has an estimated capacity of 100,000.

FIFA, the 211-member Zurich-based world soccer authority, has said it is considering a move to send observers to Tehran to make sure women spectators are allowed to attend the match.

Iran has faced international pressure to allow women to attend soccer matches since following the death of a female fan, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire following her arrest for trying to enter a stadium.

Khiodayari, nicknamed "The Blue Girl" after the colors of her favorite team, Esteghlal, had reportedly suffered burns over 90 percent of her body in the self-immolation.

Sports news website Varzesh3 reported that Khodayari had just learned she would be imprisoned for six months for trying to enter a stadium dressed as a man.

The conservative Shi'ite Muslim-led country has banned women from stadiums since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Religious leaders have claimed that they must be protected from the "male atmosphere" and the "sight of half-naked men."

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has mostly failed to deliver on pledges to open up some aspects of Iranian society, including reforms that could help lift Iranian women from distant second-class status under the law.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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