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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

‘It is our right to watch a football match’

When I reached the stadium on the day of the game, I was thrilled, especially after meeting my friends there and the other female football fans. Almost everyone had a vuvuzela and there were two sounds all through the evening: vuvuzelas, and our screaming.

football Updated: Oct 12, 2019 09:24 IST
Hoda Hashemi
Hoda Hashemi
Iranian women were allowed to watch a football match for the first time in 40 years
Iranian women were allowed to watch a football match for the first time in 40 years(Hoda Hashmi)
         

In 90 minutes, we Iranian women changed 40 years of history. The match took place on Thursday, but even today I am overwhelmed, I still can’t find words to express my joy.

As an Iranian woman I have travelled to various countries and I have such wonderful life experiences. But nothing comes closer to this experience, right at my home. It was a life-changing experience for me and for all 3,500 plus Iranian women who were at the game yesterday.

Throughout the game, all that we did most of the time was just scream and scream. I can’t even talk properly now, I have lost my voice and I don’t mind it. We screamed not just because it was a great game for the Iran team (they beat Cambodia 14-0). It was a success story for all Iranian women, especially those—like myself—who have been struggling and fighting non-stop for the last three years to convince the government to open the gates to the stadium for Iranian women. The government was also pressured by FIFA. It is our right to go out there and watch a football match.

Things had already become very exciting one week back when the online sale of tickets began for the women-only stand at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. As soon as the sale started, I booked my ticket online. I constantly coordinated with my women friends who were also desperately looking for tickets and we managed to book them. It was fun vying with thousands of other women to vie for a ticket. After all, only about 3,500 tickets were made available for women. That’s a pity because the stadium authorities could easily have allotted more tickets for women. Parts of some of the stands were empty.

When I reached the stadium on the day of the game, I was thrilled, especially after meeting my friends there and the other female football fans. Almost everyone had a vuvuzela and there were two sounds all through the evening: vuvuzelas, and our screaming.

The first big moment was when Iran opened the scoring in the fifth minute.

There was no stopping after that. Iran scored many more goals and throughout the match, there was not a single moment when we actually sat on our seats. We just stood and jumped and screamed and had all the fun we could have as football fans. We want to watch them play again and again.

I am a big fan of the club Persepolis. We all want the authorities to move forward from here and allow Iranian women to attend domestic matches at the club venues.

Also, while we enjoyed our time at the stands, we constantly had in mind the tragic death of Sahar Khodayari, who you would know by as the “blue girl” (29-year-old Sahar Khodayari died on September 9 after setting herself on fire to protest a possible prison sentence for having tried to enter a public stadium to watch a football game).

Many of the women fans chanted her name. I feel so bad over her recent death because had she been alive, it would have been a dream come true for her. She would have been sitting on the stands alongside us at the Azadi Stadium yesterday. How tragic she’s not around.

Another interesting sight at the game was how the men supported us; they waited outside the stadium to receive us—friends, husbands—after the match.

There were women of all age groups, from youngsters to older ones. I even saw some women at the stadium cuddling their little babies and watching the match.

Some young women at the game were actually very vocal about their thoughts. While they watched the match, they also chanted and raised slogans calling for the government to do much more for women in Iran.

First Published: Oct 12, 2019 08:31 IST

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