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Female soccer fans in Iran allowed into Tehran stadium for men’s game. FIFA head praises progress

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Female soccer fans in Iran claimed a small win Thursday in their long campaign to be allowed into stadiums to watch men’s games after decades of near total exclusion and harassment.

A photograph was posted on social media by the campaign group Open Stadiums of three female fans inside the Azadi Stadium in Tehran for one of the biggest games in Iran, between city rivals Persepolis and Esteghlal. Up to 3,000 tickets were set to be made available for women.

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“Historical day for women’s rights activists and the fight for equal access to public spaces will continue,” the activist group posted.

Women have been mainly prohibited from attending men’s soccer games and other sports events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Though some women have attended selected games in recent years, Open Stadiums has said that too few fans could buy tickets and they faced harassment from morality police.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino later Thursday cited his own role in the campaign which including pushing for some women to be allowed to attend the 2018 Asian Champions League in the same Tehran stadium. That breakthrough came months after Iran fans brought the issue to games at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“Thanks to the ongoing dialogue between FIFA and the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation, progress is being made,” Infantino wrote in a post on his Instagram account.

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The FIFA leader said he had discussed with Iran state president Ebrahim Raisi Raisi in New York three months ago “the development of women’s football in the country and the progress made regarding the presence of women in football stadiums.”

FIFA statutes prohibit discrimination by member federations.

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