Iran fi­nally opens sta­di­ums to women

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport -

Lon­don: Ira­nian women will be al­lowed to watch the na­tional soc­cer team play on Thurs­day for the first time in over 40 years, but cam­paign­ers are not con­vinced the match against Cam­bo­dia her­alds a wider open­ing up of sports by the govern­ment.

Un­der pres­sure from FIFA, Ira­nian author­i­ties have al­lo­cated seats to women in four sec­tors of Tehran’s 78,000 ca­pac­ity Azadi Sta­dium. FIFA stepped up pres­sure on Iran to meet com­mit­ments al­low­ing women to at­tend World Cup qual­i­fiers fol­low­ing the death last month of Sa­har Kho­da­yari, who set her­self on fire to protest against her ar­rest for try­ing to get into a match. But a lead­ing ac­tivist said FIFA should have pushed Ira­nian author­i­ties harder and sooner to ad­here to its anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion rules. “The thing that hap­pened to Sa­har, FIFA were sort of re­spon­si­ble for that, be­cause they knew this for years and they should’ve done it a lot sooner,” said ‘Sara’, whose Open Sta­di­ums group has cam­paigned for women’s ac­cess for 15 years. “Sa­har had that tragedy but also so many oth­ers went through in­ter­ro­ga­tions, they went to jail, just be­cause they wanted to watch foot­ball.”

Be­cause pro­test­ers have faced re­pres­sion in Iran, ‘Sara’ uses a pseu­do­nym and asked for her voice to be dis­torted. Around 3,000 women’s’ tick­ets for the World Cup qual­i­fier were snapped up when they went on sale last week and FIFA had said it ex­pected more to be re­leased, but no ad­di­tional seats had been made avail­able by Wed­nes­day. Ira­nian women have been banned from sta­di­ums host­ing men’s soc­cer matches since just af­ter the 1979 Is­lamic revo­lu­tion.

‘Sara’ said Thurs­day’s match was a step for­ward but that prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties re­mained. “Just women go­ing to the sta­dium will break a taboo for the hard­lin­ers in Iran ... Their eyes are go­ing to be (get­ting) used to see­ing women inside the sta­dium,” she said.

Ira­nian sports jour­nal­ist Raha shows her ticket for the Iran vs Cam­bo­dia WC qual­i­fier in Tehran

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.