I truly believe that soccer unites the world. It is played from one end of the globe to the other and is the most popular sport in the world. It brings people together and unites fans in a common cause.
When I read this story about Iranian women being allowed to attend a soccer match for the first time since 1979 it made me realize just how important the sport can be to many. For those of us who are free to make our own choices, we often take for granted something as simple as attending a sporting event.
This story began earlier this year when Sahar Khodayar wanted to attend a match being played by her favorite team, Esteghlal. Khodayari attempted to enter the stadium dressed as a man and was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Court. She feared being jailed for six months and set herself on fire to protest the arrest and advance the cause of women’s rights in Iran.
In reaction to the death of Khodayari, FIFA and women’s rights campaigners put pressure on the Iranian FA to allow women to attend its national match last week versus Cambodia.
3000 tickets were allocated for women who had to sit in an exclusive “women’s only” section of the stadium. The women in attendance were seen cheering, waving flags and just enjoying the game.
One of the women in attendance was quoted saying, “It was really a very big wish. Really, thank you for letting us come. I’m shaking. Thank you.”
While this was a step forward, Iran still has a ways to go to change how it treats women sports fans. The fact that the women had to sit in their own section rather than with their family and friends needs to be addressed. Also, the women were allowed to attend a match featuring the national team. They are currently banned from attending league matches.
Iran won the match 14-0 and afterwards the male players walked towards the women’s section to thank them for their support.
When asked about the presence of women at the stadium a government spokesman, Ali Rabiei said:.
The government has a positive view of the presence of women in stadiums. The infrastructure of Azadi stadium is ready for the presence of women. But the cultural and mental infrastructure must be ready.
This is a great step forward for the women of Iran. Let’s see where this goes from here. What are your thoughts on this?