Iran ladies attend soccer last in 35-year first

AFC Champions League Final 2nd Leg- Persepolis FC v Kashima Antlers

Asian heavyweights Persepolis and Kashima Antlers will battle it out to become king of the continent when the second leg of the AFC Champions League final takes place at Azadi Stadium.

Separated from male supporters, hundreds of Iranian women watched as J-League side Kashima won the continental title for the first time.

They had won the first leg 2-0 in Kashima last week with Brazilian duo Leo Silva and Serginho on target. "Tonight, was historic in so many ways and showed that the AFC continues to develop their competitions".

Iranian women and girls have rarely been allowed at men's sporting events since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and have not been able to attend top football matches since 1981.

Iran is not a country that yields under global pressure, but FIFA, the world's football governing football, has done significant progress, encouraging the government to have a more open and inclusive approach towards women at special events.

The ISNA news agency said fans around the stadium cheered as the women entered the stands set aside for them, which an official said had a capacity of 850 seats.

Gianni Infantino, the president of the worldwide soccer federation FIFA, who was at the game, said 1,000 women were allowed to attend, calling it "a real breakthrough".

Reformist newspaper Shargh reported that about 500 female fans were kept outside the stadium gates.


After the revolution nearly 40 years ago, women were allowed to attend a football match in Iran for the first time in November 2001 when around 20 Irish women were among the crowd for an Iran-Ireland World Cup qualifier.

Last month, some 100 women were allowed to watch a friendly soccer match between Iran and Bolivia.

Iran has disregarded previous pleas from soccer's worldwide governing body to open its stadiums to women.

Conversely, during the World Cup in June, women were allowed to watch their national team.

Access to stadiums for women in the football-mad nation has become a major issue, with thousands of female fans able to watch their team outside their homeland at the World Cup finals in Russian Federation and at other major events but frustrated by the restrictions at home.

The final match was held with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Iranian First Vice President Es'hagh Jahangiri, and many other sports and political figures in attendance. Before that Gamba Osaka had claimed the crown in 2008.

Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic sent on Mohsen Rabiekhah and Ehsan Alvanzadeh in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock but to no avail.

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