Iranians celebrate in the streets of Tehran after their national football team won the the World Cup Group B soccer match between Morocco and Iran on June 15, 2018. Photo: AFP/Atta Kenare
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Fans of one of the all-time great players in football history, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, used his worldwide celebrity and three-goal World Cup match to support a social campaign to allow women to attend matches in Iran.
"Support Iranian women to attend stadiums #NoBan4Women," @CRonaldoNews tweeted on Saturday, just 12 hours after Ronaldo scoring three goals and spectacular penalty kick goal in the final minutes to tie rival Spain 3-3 in opening round play of the 2018 World Cup.
Using handclapping and praising emojis, the Portuguese forward's 631,000-strong fan account also shared photos of spectators at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium holding banners reading "Support Iranian women to attend stadiums" and "Let Iranian women enter their stadiums."
Men and women alike held similar banners inside and outside of the stadium.
"Good to see support for @openStadiums here in St. Petersburg just before Iran - Morocco. #NoBan4Women," read a tweet from @FansEurope.
Open Stadiums is a movement of Iranian women seeking to end discrimination and allow women to attend stadiums.
Tehran-born Iranian British actress and human rights activist Nazanin Boniadi has been outspoken over the stadium issue as well.
"While supporting Iran’s dapper #WorldCup national football squad let’s not forget that women in Iran are still banned from stadiums and can’t cheer their national team. Tell #Iran and #FIFA that women watching sports is not a crime!" she implored.
Only men have been permitted to attend matches since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino witnessed the ban first hand
while in Tehran attending a Derby Day match on the 100th anniversary of Iran's football federation in March.
Prior to Iran's first match against Morocco, Open Stadiums tweeted that "enthusiasm is at the highest, so many women will watch the match in stadium."
A petition on change.org to repeal the ban garnered more than 59,000 signatures as of midday Saturday.
The Islamic Republic has strict religious police, which in addition to preventing women from attending sporting events with men, requires loose-fitting clothing and the wearing of a headscarf.
The World Economic Forum ranked Iran 140th in terms of gender parity.
"Iran ranked 140th for economic participation and opportunity, 100th for educational attainment, 135th for health and survival, and 136th for political empowerment," WEF found.
Athletes are usually discouraged by their national teams from speaking out on political issues; Ronaldo may have also been a busy celebrating after the equalizer.