In defeat, Iranian women experienced a victory on Wednesday, with Iran’s 1-0 World Cup loss to Spain marking the first time in 40 years that women have been legally permitted to follow a football match in a stadium in the country.
The game was in Kazan, Russia but Iranian women attended a public viewing of the match in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
“That was the real big victory,” said women’s activist Tajebeh Siawoshi, according to Iranian news agency ISNA.
After national and international protests against the long-standing ban on women attending stadiums, the Iranian authorities permitted women access to the stadium to watch the game on a big screen.
However, the momentous occasion was almost scuppered at the last minute with police wanting to cancel the entire viewing, citing “infrastructural deficiencies.”
The police eventually relented after the Ministry of the Interior gave the instruction to let everyone into the stadium.
“We are always powerless to two things,” said one police officer at the arena, according to social media. “Women and football.”
Most of the women following the game on television inside the arena were able to directly experience a stadium atmosphere for the first time.
“I did not know that it was so much fun to roar for two hours and be close to a heart attack,” a woman wrote on Twitter.
Activists are confident that this could be the impetus to a complete lifting of the women’s stadium ban.
Women in Iran have been banned from entering stadiums since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, with ultra-conservative clerics arguing that women should not witness frenetic male fans and their pithy slogans.
Iran may have lost but still have an outside chance of progressing to the World Cup last 16.