Iranian women’s attendance at soccer match in Iran, “historic, symbolic ” – FIFA President
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Sunday that the attendance of women at a soccer match in Iran on Thursday was “historic” and a step in the right direction.
After a ban from soccer stadiums that has been effectively enforced since conservative Islamists swept to power in 1979, Iranian women were back to see Iran beat Cambodia 14-0 in a very uneven encounter, but much of the headlines around the match were not on the player performances, rather it was the jubilant following of female fans enjoying their first game where they have been officially designated seats to watch their national side in the stands.
Around 3,500 female fans were allowed into the 78,000 seater-capacity Azadi stadium. Women have been banned from watching men’s games since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution with only a few exceptions made for small groups on rare occasions.
At an event in Lebanon promoting soccer in schools alongside former Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho, Infantino hailed the move as a symbolic victory and thanked the women who went to the match, he has previously urged Iranian authorities to open up stadiums to women for all games, not just World Cup qualifiers
With the next World Cup due to take place in Qatar in 2022, Infantino said he was not worried about the poor attendances at the recent athletics world championships in the country, insisting that stadiums would be full for soccer’s showpiece event.
Asked about recent comments from players that they might take matters into their own hands and walk off the pitch if they are subjected to racism, Infantino insisted that referees had the authority to deal with such incidents so the players should not have to resort to drastic action.
“I am very confident that this will now become the norm. I was extremely happy that for the first time in 40 years women in Iran were allowed, not only allowed to go to a football game but to buy, as well, tickets to attend the game”.
“It’s symbolic, it’s historic, it’s a step. Is it what we want? No. But it’s a step in the right direction. Therefore my gratitude goes to everyone but in particular to these women who were cheering for more than 90 minutes in a game and are living there passion.
“I think men and women alike, we all love football, and the message that came this week from Iran is a message of hop, and I think the world needs more of these messages of hope. There is more to do but we are on the right path.”