Iran banned women from watching Football matches because it is a men's game. The ban came into effect after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and there have been a few exceptions over the last four decades. Those were for small groups on rare occasions. However, there appears to be a change in the offing in view of the permission granted to women to enjoy the game in a stadium in Teheran. It was the World Cup Asian qualifier against Cambodia and around 3,500 tickets were set aside for them in the Azadi Stadium that has a capacity of 78,000. The women had to be in a separate section of the stadium meant for them.

ABC AU reports about the change in the policy of Iran regarding women fans of football. It seems there was pressure from FIFA, the world governing the body, as well as from women's rights campaigners. However, the decision to have a specially designated area in the stadium for women has not gone down well with some. They felt women were discriminated against because they should have the freedom to attend with their male family members.

The decision raised more questions

Campaigners have welcomed the decision of the authorities to grant access to women to watch the football game but criticized the way it was handled.

Many eager fans were not able to buy tickets even though there were vacant seats in the stadium. Footages that emerged in social media showed the fans arriving much before the scheduled kick-off time. They had come to enjoy, carried flags, and blew "vuvuzela" horns to keep themselves engaged.

ABC AU says the sister of the country’s football captain, Maryam Shojaei, heaped criticism on such treatment of women.

She said - "This is a direct example of gender discrimination, when there are thousands of empty seats and women can't buy tickets. Many women are very angry." She wants FIFA to persuade Iran to lift the ban in its totality. That will allow women to have equal access to tickets as men for all matches countrywide. Right now, keeping women away from the football field amounts to a violation of human rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) described it as a "historic day in Iran" but criticized the effort to restrict the numbers.

HRW and Amnesty International have taken note of the fact that women got a chance to watch a football match after 40 years. An official of the Iranian Government says the presence of women at the stadium was a positive step. He explains, “The infrastructure of Azadi stadium is ready for the presence of women. But the cultural and mental infrastructure must be ready." Some feel the ban on women attending football matches helps to protect them from exposure to foul language, swear words and at times violence.

It was a change for Iranian women

According to Sky News, it was a red-letter day for women of Iran when they could see a football match in their country for the first time in decades.

There are lovers of the game among women and they had, till now, been able to watch their teams playing either overseas or on TV. Indications are there that the ban in force for four decades could be relaxed. Of course, the women had a separate enclosure with female security guards. The enclosure was at a distance from the men’s enclosure.