Iranian women allowed to attend men's soccer match for 1st time in decades
Amin M. Jamali / Getty Images Sport / Getty

For the first time in nearly four decades, women were allowed to attend a men's soccer match in Iran.

Around 3,500 female supporters were granted entry to Tehran's Azadi Stadium for Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Cambodia. Iran beat the visiting team 14-0.

Though only a few thousand tickets were allocated to women, the scenes inside the stadium were jovial. Many painted their faces in the traditional green, white, and red colors of the national team, waved flags, and blew horns.

"We are so happy that we finally got the chance to go to the stadium. It's an extraordinary feeling," 29-year-old nurse Zahra Pashaei told Amir Vahdat and Mehdi Fattahi of The Associated Press. "At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this."

Women were banned from attending men's games after the 1979 Islamic revolution, but the death of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari, known as "Blue Girl," sparked an outcry. Khodayari set herself on fire while awaiting trial for sneaking into a stadium.

FIFA put pressure on Iran to end the blanket ban and sent a delegation to Tehran to ensure women were allowed to enter the 78,000-capacity ground, according to Reuters' Simon Evans.

However, restrictions remained in place. Female ticket holders were told to watch the game from a specific section in a corner of the stadium, which was otherwise empty. Female police officers also kept them separated from the men.

Human rights organization Amnesty International described the move as a "cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image."

Philip Luther, an advocacy director at Amnesty, called on Iran to issue a "full reversal" of the ban, which was introduced by hardline conservatives in 1981.

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Iranian women allowed to attend men's soccer match for 1st time in decades
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