The 3,500 World Cup qualifier tickets set aside for women in Iran sold out in minutes Friday morning, despite Iranian Football Federation failing to announce their availability, Reuters reported. It’s a sign of how much demand is in Iran, despite a ban, and how many more fans the country could draw in.
IFF assured FIFA it will allow women to attend men’s soccer matches in the country, beginning with Iran’s qualifier against Cambodia on Thursday, Oct. 10, at Azadi Stadium in Tehran. FIFA has been concerned about the country forbidding women from attending matches and put more pressure on Iran after a female fan died last month. The woman known as “Blue Girl” attended a game dressed as a man and is possibly facing a jail sentence for it.
3,500 World Cup tickets sell in minutes
Iran does not allow men and women to be in public spaces together. For the World Cup qualifier, the federation followed its precedent from a match one year ago when it allowed women to sit in their own section of the stadium at a friendly.
The semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA reported, per Reuters, that 3,500 tickets set aside for women sold out in minutes despite the fact there was no warning of the sale by IFF. Word reportedly spread quickly through social media.
An activist with the group “Open Stadiums,” which advocates for Iranian women to freely attend matches, said word spread quickly through social media.
“It was quite a chaotic situation,” she said, via Reuters.
Iranian women thrilled to be able to buy tickets to watch the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia.— Reza Khaasteh (@Khaaasteh) October 4, 2019
While the majority of the seats for men remain empty, those allocated to women (purple ones) have sold out, and more seats are now being allocated gradually. pic.twitter.com/ARsuz91Qw2
FIFA reportedly told Reuters they were told 4,600 tickets will be available in the initial batch of sales. It said it expects more to go on sale to meet demand. The 4,600 tickets is approximately 5.9 percent of the total stadium, which holds 78,000.
FIFA said it will be sending a delegation to Iran to monitor access for women. A year ago, Iranian women were refused access to a qualifier in Tehran against Syria despite being allowed to purchase tickets online. Syrian women were able to go through while Iranians threatened with arrests.
Questions remain for women in Iran stadiums
As stated by the soccer website, The 18, there are a few questions and potential pitfalls for women still. Mothers would presumably not be allowed to bring their sons. And there’s no word on how women with disabilities will be accommodated.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been concerned about Iran’s ban, per reports, and asked for a timeline months ago for how the country was taking steps to allow women. It was been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"This is something that is very important, since 40 years this has not been happening with a couple of exceptions,” he said, via CNN.
The issue came to the forefront again when FIFA faced backlash following the death of “Blue Girl.” Many called out FIFA for not “enforc[ing] its own human rights rules.”
Iran’s men’s soccer team rose to No. 23 in the FIFA world rankings. Though its federation acquiesced to FIFA and opened its stadium to women, it clearly was doing the bare minimum by releasing tickets so quietly and doing it in such small batches. How the women who attend are treated, and what happens before, during and after the match will also be important to how this works going forward.
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