Iranian women entered the country’s national stadium in Tehran on Thursday after being able to purchase tickets for a national team game for the first time in 40 years.
But under pressure from world governing body FIFA and women’s rights campaigners, Iranian authorities earmarked around 3,000 tickets for women to Thursday’s World Cup Asian qualifier against Cambodia in the 78,000-seat Azadi Stadium.
The tickets are for a special women’s-only section of the stadium, a decision that has been criticised by some campaigners who would prefer women to be able to attend with their male family members.
Footage posted on social media showed women arriving at the stadium more than two hours before the scheduled kick-off time. The women waved flags and blew “vuvuzela” horns while the rest of the stadium was still mostly empty.
But while women’s rights activists have welcomed the access granted for Thursday’s game, it is unclear whether such scenes will become the norm in Iran, with the domestic league restarting Oct. 21.
A report posted by the semi-official Fars news agency warned that women attending Thursday’s match could be exposed to foul language, drug use and even violence.
The sport’s governing body has sent officials to Tehran to monitor access for women at the match and said it will continue to press for their inclusion.
“FIFA’s stance on the access of women to the stadiums in Iran has been firm and clear: women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran. For all football matches,” it said in a statement.
“Further details on the next steps to be implemented to ensure the future access of women to the stadiums in Iran will follow once we have performed a thorough assessment of Thursday’s match based on the input provided by the FIFA delegation that is present in Tehran.”