Women were allowed for the first time on Thursday to watch a league match between two prominent football clubs at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Around 500 female fans made their way to the iconic football stadium in western Tehran to watch Esteghlal go against Mes Kerman in the Persian Gulf Pro League.
Videos online showed women crying with tears of joy, prostrating to show gratitude and screaming and cheering their favorite team.
— Yeni Şafak English (@yenisafakEN) August 26, 2022
“We are happy by your presence in Azadi stadium,” Esteghlal wrote in a tweet before kickoff.
Most of the women sported blue jerseys and hats to support the home team, Esteghlal — one of the oldest football clubs in the country. Esteghlal won 1-0.
Social media hailed the “historic moment” with one user writing that although Esteghlal won, the real winners were women who finally made it to the stadium.
Women have been barred from entering sports stadiums in the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
In a first, around 500 ‘women in blue’ made their way to Tehran’s Azaadi Stadium on Thursday evening to watch home team Esteghlal take on Mes Kerman in the Persian Gulf Pro League.#Esteghlal won the match 1-0. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/UwsfE93j41
— Syed Zafar Mehdi (@mehdizafar) August 26, 2022
The issue has put the country’s football federation and FIFA on a collision course, with the world football governing body demanding a lift of the ban.
It has also been a widely debated matter in Iran.
Last October, Iran’s football federation requested that parliament adopt a law overturning the ban.
In January, 2,000 women were allowed inside Azadi Stadium to watch Iran play Iraq, where the home team qualified for the 2022 World Cup.
Before that, women were allowed inside the stadium to watch the Asian Champions League final in 2019 between Iran’s Persepolis and Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
❣️ Women watch a football match (soccer) between Esteghlal FC and Sanat Mes Kerman FC at the Azadi stadium, the first time women were allowed to attend a national football championship match since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tehran, Iran pic.twitter.com/1Jsvsh52MB
— Gordon Burton Hill (@QueeredR) August 27, 2022
It was the first time in 40 years that women were able to watch men play in person.
In March, controversy erupted after women were barred from entering a stadium in Mashhad and they were pepper-sprayed during Iran’s World Cup qualifier against Lebanon.
It sparked protests across the country, prompting the government to order an investigation.
Thursday, however, marked the first time that Iranian women were allowed to view a local league match.
Former government spokesman Ali Rabiei wrote on Twitter after the match that “active and timely policies” bring satisfaction to people, unlike “passive policies and actions.”