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#WakeUpFifa: After 40 years, women make history at Iranian soccer match

In 1981, women were banned from entering any Iranian soccer match.

Now, almost four decades later, the biggest, most popular sport in the world just became even greater, as Iranian women were allowed to attend a soccer match after the 40-year ban.

Women poured into Tehran’s Azadi stadium on Thursday to cheer alongside the men’s national team in a world cup qualifier match against Cambodia. Iran stomped them 14-0. Maybe, it was the added motivation from the women fans. Their fire, for sure, motivated their countrymen.

Since being banned from entering stadiums in 1981, the women were treated to a dominating performance that will be sure to keep them coming back in support of their country.

Last month, a woman named Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire and died in a protest over not being allowed entry into the stadium. Khodayari, a martyr for the movement, is known as “The Blue Girl,” in reference to the color of her favorite team, Iranian club Esteghlal F.C.

Women had to use a separate parking area, enter through a women-only gate, and were confined to a single section of the stadium.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is no one’s first choice for the world’s most progressive country, but in 2019, people were surprised this ban on women was still in place.

The 100,000-capacity stadium was mostly unfilled. Only about 3,500 seats were available for women, and those tickets sold out quickly.

The hashtag #WakeUpFifa trended on Twitter with people complaining about the ticketing restriction. Women’s rights activist Darya Safai does not believe the ban is lifted until all women are free to buy tickets for all games, with no quotas.

“If you keep fighting, there will be a day when change will arrive.”

Women in the stadium shouted, “Seats are spared, no space for women,” and “The Blue Girl, you are missed.” While the lifting of the ban may be long overdue, the past cannot be changed.

The inclusion of women at Iranian soccer matches is something we can all be happy about. Still, there is work to be done, and women and activists for equal rights understand this.