Countries with barriers for Female football fans

Posted by Last we checked it is year 2016, more than a decade into 21st century, and yet in very few countries, women are not allowed to enter stadiums to attend men’s football games. To put it into Canadian perspective, it is as if a Canadian man, father of two, cannot take his daughter to Toronto FC Match or Canada men’s National Soccer team match at BMO field or other football (soccer) arenas in Canada, but can take his son with him. His daughter would be barred from the stadium by entrance gate’s security guards, because of her gender. It is laughable and gruesome at the same time. While we are at it, this girl is not allowed watch the game and support her team with her guy or girlfriends either at a sport bar or café.

There is a caveat though: If Canada men’s National soccer team were to host France National team for example, it would be perfectly fine for French female fans to enter BMO field to attend the game; Infuriating, is it not?!

Well, this is what has been going on for decades in 2 countries in particular amongst 211 football associations.

In Iran, since 1979 revolution, under no circumstances, Iranian women would be allowed to attend men’s football games. Vulgar words used by some football fans, is used as a reason by Iran football officials and politicians to refuse the entry to female football fans.

Despite the fact that:

  1. Iran, country of 77 million people, has the largest football fan base in Asia.
  2. Prior to 1979, there was freedom of match attendance for both men and women in Iran, and many female football fans would attend the games every week.
  3. The growth of Iran women football teams, and attendance numbers by Iranian female football fans in Iran’s games, out of the country, proves the popularity and passion for football among Iranian women.
Iranian female football players 1970
Iranian female football players in 1960’s

Iranian female football fans are also banned from watching football at cafés  in Iran, due to fear of “mixing with men” according to Iran officials.

This discriminatory mandate hurts even more, when female fans or reporters of other nationalities can freely attend the games in stadiums in Iran, such as finale of Iran’s Premier League soccer season on May 13, 2016, where security officials let Perspolis’s Croatian coach’s wife and daughter into the stadium for Perspolis and Rah Ahan match, but continued to bar Iranian female fans.  However, that did not prevent eager female football fans from sneaking into the arena. In one instance, a girl whom according to her claim had worn 5 shirts and 5 pants and pretending to be a guy,  sneaked passed suspicious security guards and entered the arena in May 2016. Later, she posted a selfie of herself on Instagram showing her support for one of the teams in the Final.

female football fan Azadi stadium
Iranian female football fan secretly entering Iran stadium Credit: Shakiba_hni Instagram page

The same law is applied in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, apart from the ban for women to drive, Saudi female football fans are also barred from attending men’s games. But foreign nationals are exempted: Recently female supporters of Australian club, Western Sydney Wanderers, were allowed to enter King Fahd International Football Stadium in Riyadh for AFC Champions League match.

Both countries’ discriminatory practice is against article three of FIFA, which indicates: “Discrimination of any kind against any Country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

Iran and Saudi Arabia are practically the only 2 countries amongst 211 FIFA member Associations who practice such ban on their female football fans.

In their neighbouring countries, though women are allowed to enter stadiums, despite their passion for football, there is cultural barriers in the society that views “women’s passion for football as odd and a sign of masculinity of those women”. Therefore, in countries such as Turkey, UAE, Lebanon and Algeria, many female football fans choose to secretly watch football games at home and on TV, rather than attending the games at stadiums.

Here is a chart to visually display the restrictions in such countries:

countries with limitations for female football fans
Countries with limitations for female football fans

Whereas, 205 other football associations have no restrictions and complete freedom for female football fans to attend men’s football games. Here is a chart to demonstrate such countries:

countries with freedom of entry for female football fans
Countries with freedom of entry for female football fans

One interesting incident happened in Turkey, where due to hooliganism at the match between Fenerbahce and Shakhtar Donetsk. Turkey football officials, as punishment for Fenerbahce’s male fans, ruled to only let women and children into the stadium for the next match. It is a discriminatory practice on its own too, but the stadium was filled with passionate female football fans, of all ages, without any violent incidence.

Here is the video of how 41,000 women and children filled Fenerbahce’s stadium back in 2011.

In another article, I will cover the growth of women football leagues in different countries, and how many countries have women football leagues, and which countries do not.

Until then, the hope is that Iran and Saudi Arabia put an end to their discriminatory and sexist practice against their own countries’ female football fans, and for FIFA to enforce their own standards on their member associations.


  1. I find it an interesting article. I am born and bred in a country (Norway) where equal rights across the genders apply in everything, whether it be in society, politics, sports…and there is a lack of knowledge here about other countries and cultures because 1) some seem to think we are the centre of the universe and 2) because of the way society is set up here, people just assume it is like this in every other country too. Ignorance.
    I had been told before I went to Iran for a two week holiday in 2014 that only men are allowed into Iran’s football stadia. I had become a fan of the Iranian national team during the 2014 World Cup, so I was keen to go to Iran to take in at least a couple of domestic league matches. I had the pleasure of seeing Sepahan at home in Fooladshahr, 30 minutes away from the beautiful city of Isfahan, and then a week later I saw one of the country’s two leading clubs Esteghlal at home in the Azadi Stadiom in Tehran. It did obviously strike me that there was a complete absence of female fans. It was the first time I had been in a stadium with a sizable crowd and only men present. Not that female fans make up such huge numbers normally, but at least you see a few. Here there were none. It felt a bit odd, probably because I was very aware of it as I was in both grounds, though I was fortunate to meet with wonderful sets of supporters in both grounds.
    I have female acquaintances in both Isfahan and Tehran, and they both like football. They would be happy to get the opportunity to go and see a league match. It would be great if they can be given this opportunity within their life time, though who knows. And perhaps, even if it becomes possible, they could opt to stay at home due to the same circumstances that you find in Lebanon, Algeria, Turkey and the UAE.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Joachim Aasan for your detailed info about Norway society and your experience in Iran. I really appreciate it. It is very true that in Iran there are passionate female football fans, and they’d love the opportunity to attend the games in the stadiums. It is sad they cannot do so as it stands.


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