Report: Iran blocked women from attending World Cup qualifying match

Abdalla Ramadan Bekheet of U.A.E., right, shoots the ball as Iran's Saied Ezatolahi defends during their 2022 World Cup qualifier soccer match, at the Azadi stadium in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (Vahid Salemi/AP Photo)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran blocked women from attending the country’s last 2022 World Cup soccer qualifying match Tuesday, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

ISNA said 12,500 tickets were sold online, of which 2,000 had been reserved for women. Iran defeated Lebanon 2-0 in the match. A victory in January over Iraq assured the team a spot in the World Cup in Qatar.

A video circulating on social media shows hundreds of female soccer fans chanting “we have an objection” in response to the decision to ban them from attending the match in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

It was not immediately clear who made the decision to block the women from attending the match.

Khabaronline, an Iranian news website, said that “despite tickets being sold, women are still not allowed to attend the stadium.”

FIFA has long demanded Iran provide assurances that women will be allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Women have been mainly prohibited from attending men’s games and other sports events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Ahmad Alamolhoda, Friday prayer leader in Mashhad, who was appointed by the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he is always against the presence of women as spectators in men’s sports competitions. He called their attendance “vulgarity.”

Team captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh, in a post-match interview, said it would be great to see women in stadiums in the future because they also enjoy seeing the national team, known as “TeamMelli,” win.

In January, more than 2,000 female spectators were in Azadi stadium in Tehran when the national team defeated Iraq by one goal to become the first Asian group team to qualify for the World Cup. It was the second major soccer event Iranian women watched in the stadium.

In 2019 and for the first time in decades, for the Asian Champions League final, hundreds of Iranian women were allowed to watch Persepolis play the Kashima Antlers of Japan in Tehran.

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