Thousands of women watched Iran thrash Cambodia 14-0 in a men’s 2022 World Cup qualifier on Thursday in a historic move welcomed by FIFA.
Authorities in Iran have enforced a long-standing ban on women entering football grounds, though it was temporarily lifted for the second leg of the AFC Champions League final between Persepolis and Japanese side Kashima Antlers in November 2018.
Iranian woman Sahar Khodayari died last month after setting herself on fire while awaiting a court case following her March arrest for attempting to sneak into Azadi Stadium in Tehran wearing a disguise.
Amnesty International official Philip Luther described the ban as showing “appalling contempt for women’s rights” and told FIFA to take action, and female fans were permitted to watch the defeat of Cambodia.
“For the first time in nearly 40 years, several thousand women have been allowed into a stadium in Iran to watch a football match played by men,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
“This is a very positive step forward, and one which FIFA, and especially Iranian girls and women, have been eagerly waiting for.
#WCQ FULL TIME
Iran 14-0 Cambodia
Ansarifard (4) and Azmoun (3) help @TeamMelliIran to a remarkable scoreline in Tehran
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) October 10, 2019
“The passion, joy and enthusiasm they showed today was remarkable to see and encourages us even more to continue the path we have started. History teaches us that progress comes in stages and this is just the beginning of a journey.
“Consequently, FIFA now looks more than ever towards a future when ALL girls and women wishing to attend football matches in Iran will be free to do so, and in a safe environment.
“There can be no stopping or turning back now.
“I would like to thank both the Iran FA, the AFC and the authorities involved for their efforts and cooperation. FIFA will continue to work closely with them, to help ensure that the right thing is done, which is to allow all fans, irrespective of gender, to have the chance to go to the stadiums and enjoy a game of football. Since I arrived at FIFA, we fight to see this objective fulfilled.
“But, above all, today I want to say a very big thank you and record our utmost respect to all of the Iranian girls and women who courageously stood and are standing up for their rights.
“FIFA fully supports them and will stand by them.”
Karim Ansarifard scored four and Serdar Azmoun also hit a hat-trick in a one-sided victory for Marc Wilmots’ side, who are top of Group C with six points from two games.
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