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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 06:35 GMT
Iranian football club admits female fans
Women journalists take notes at the Iran Khodro stadium during the Paykan-Barq of Shiraz game
Women: Kept out of male sporting events for years
An Iranian football club has allowed female fans to watch a men's match for the first time in years.

A small group of women were admitted to the Iran Khodro stadium in the capital Tehran on Thursday, to see a first division match involving the hosts Paykan.

My dream came true today

Female football fan
Club manager Mahdi Dadras said the decision had been made because Paykan fans did not use foul language, and the women's presence improved players' morale.

Since the 1979 revolution, Iranian women have been banned from attending men's sporting events.

But in September, the cabinet's Cultural Committee gave provisional approval for women to attend matches, provided the sporting authorities were able to create the "necessary conditions".

'World of aliens'

Football in Iran has many female fans, and in recent years there have been growing calls to allow women to attend male games.

But the authorities have kept them out of stadiums on the grounds that male supporters use foul language against the opposing team - although critics say this has merely been an excuse.

One of the first female fans to be allowed in, 17-year-old student Sahar Alvandi, said her dream had come true.

"I still can't believe I'm in a soccer stadium in the Islamic Republic, where it has so far been the realm of only men," she told the Associated Press.

Iranian fans
Male fans' bad language is 'rife', the authorities say

However she did find some of the looks she got offensive.

"The men look at you as if you are a different creature from another planet... To them, a women showing up in soccer stadium is like something from the world of aliens."

"You can't deny half of the population the right of watching soccer in a stadium because some male fans say bad words. Why should women be punished for the irresponsible behaviour of some men?" she said.

In the past, some female fans are said to have resorted to dressing as men to watch matches.

According to the Associated Press, a small number of female journalists were allowed to watch a Paykan home match recently.

On rare occasions, foreign women have been allowed to attend matches.

However the authorities were criticised by a women's magazine for "discriminatory practices" when female fans from the Republic of Ireland's football team were allowed to attend a World Cup 2002 qualifying match in Tehran's national stadium.

See also:

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