Tehran (AFP)

Some 3,500 fans will attend Tehran Thursday at the World Cup-2022 qualifying match against Cambodia after they could buy their ticket for this meeting, a first in Iran for almost forty years.

This opening comes after the tragic death of a supporter, Sahar Khodayari, who set himself alight in mid-September after being arrested for attempting to enter a stadium. Fifa then increased its pressure on Iran, threatening the country with sanctions, to allow women to attend the men's football matches.

Soon after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian women were denied access to the stadiums, ostensibly to protect them from male crudity.

Fifa has been lobbying the Islamic Republic for years to open its stadiums for women, but Tehran has so far only rarely allowed a limited number of women (up to a thousand Supporters in November 2018) to attend a few meetings.

The death of "the girl in blue" (the color of her favorite team, Tehran's Esteghlal club) has provoked a stir on social networks, where calls from celebrities, footballers or activists have been launched at Fifa to banish l Iran international competitions.

- "Live it in person" -

After a visit by an International Federation delegation to Tehran in September, the Iranian authorities resolved to allow ticket sales to women for the Iran-Cambodia match.

The places for the Azadi stadium ("Liberty" in Persian) have sold like hotcakes and "the presence of 3,500 Iranian supporters [...] is assured," according to the official Irna news agency.

Finding this figure insufficient, a campaign on Twitter calls for giving more seats to women with the hashtag: #WakeUpFifa ("Fifa wake up").

Sports journalist Raha Pourbakhsh proudly shows her e-ticket to her mobile phone.

"I still can not believe it will happen ... After all these years [...] watching everything on TV, I will now be able to live this in person," she says.

But unlike the theater or cinema, where women and men can be seated side by side, female supporters will have to fill stands reserved for them, and watched, according to the Fars agency, by some 150 women policewomen.

"I would like women to be free, like men, to go to the stadium and [men and women] can sit side by side without any restrictions like in other countries", says AFP Hasti, a resident of Tehran.

- "They will regret it" -

For Nader Fathi, who runs a ready-to-wear boutique, the presence of women in the stadiums could improve the atmosphere. But "they will regret it", he judges, if they find themselves exposed to "really gross insults" or "bad behavior".

In 2001, about twenty Irish women were the first women to attend a men's football match (Iran-Ireland) in the country since the post-revolutionary ban.

The Iranians, they had to wait until 2005: only a few dozen of them had then been able to attend a meeting Iran-Bahrain. Since then, the authorizations have been rare, and always in limited numbers.

The ban on women in stadiums is regularly criticized within the Iranian political system.

Conservative moderate, President Hassan Rohani has repeatedly said his willingness to put an end.

This project, however, continues to face the opposition of the ultra-conservative clan, like the daily Kayhan, which calls on the government to deal with women's economic problems rather than sending them to the stadium.

In October 2018, after a hundred supporters had been allowed to attend a friendly match between Iran and Bolivia, the country's Attorney General had ruled that exposing women to the sight of men "half naked "could lead to" sin ".

For the business paper Donya-yé Eqtessad, the decision to allow the sale of tickets to women for Iran-Cambodia is "a measure to shake a taboo, but also to free the Iranian football of the threat of sanctions of Fifa ".

On Twitter, the government spokesman, Ali Rabii, was keen to ensure that this decision was the result of an "internal requirement to society and government support for this requirement," and certainly not "foreign pressure ".

It remains to be seen whether the action of the authorities will satisfy the International Federation.

Tehran has so far not announced that women could attend matches in the Iranian league or other international matches, while Fifa demanded that women be allowed in football stadiums "for all matches".

© 2019 AFP