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Iranian women fans are free to enter a football stadium Thursday for the first time in decades, after FIFA threatened to suspend the Islamic republic over its controversial male-only policy. "It's an extraordinary feeling", 29-year-old nurse Zahra Pashaei told the AP.
'At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this'.
Cambodia were always up against mighty odds against one of Asia's giants at the Azadi Stadium, and it did not help that they fell behind after just five minutes when Ahmad Nourollahi unleashed a stunning 30-yard piledriver that swerved and dipped over Keo Soksela before going on off the underside of the bar.
"FIFA now looks more than ever towards a future when ALL girls and women wishing to attend football matches in".
But under pressure from world soccer's governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association and women's rights campaigners, Iranian authorities earmarked tickets for women to watch Thursday's game.
Before the game, a group of women gathered in front of the stadium seeking tickets for the game in Azadi Stadium, which has an estimated capacity of almost 80,000.
The female fans cheered from a 4,000-seat women-only section of a stadium that has capacity of almost 80,000. Iran faced a potential ban if it didn't allow women into the match.
But despite the fact that the game is not sold out, officials said there would be no additional tickets provided for the women and that they should return home. The crowd could be heard chanting, "Let her go!"
Attendance at games has become a flashpoint for reformists in Iran, with fans disguising themselves as men to enter stadiums in regular protests.
In 2006, then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted women to attend matches to "improve soccer-watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere".
However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, opposed the decision.
An Iranian woman waves her country's flag as she arrives at the Azadi Stadium to watch the 2022 World Cup qualifier soccer match between Iran and Cambodia, in Tehran, Iran, October 10, 2019. While government and soccer officials were unmoved, the activism gradually grabbed the attention of global rights groups and the Iranian public. Amnesty International called Thursday's decision "a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities meant to whitewash their image".
Iranian authorities relaxed restrictions on women following the death of a fan who set herself alight after being arrested for trying to attend a match.
An Iran fan gestures before their 2011 Asian Cup Group D match against United Arab Emirates at Qatar Sports Club stadium in Doha January 19, 2011. "God willing, there will be freedom sooner so that they can attend all matches, not just the national team matches. That will be much better". But Iran denied its decision to allow women into Thursday's match was a result of "foreign pressure". She was rushed to hospital but later died of her wounds and was immediately dubbed "Blue Girl" after the colours of her favourite team. "Of course, efforts by women activists and feminists were very effective", she said.