The ‘Persian Leopards’ became the first Asian country to qualify for the World Cup finals with a 1-0 win in its capital, Tehran.
Iran secures a position at the Fifa World Cup 2022 after qualifying through a victory over its counterpart Iraq, on 27th January.
Three minutes into the second half, a goal from striker Mehdi Taremi won the plane ticket for Iran’s national football team to participate in the world’s largest sporting event, hosted by Qatar this upcoming November.
The goal sends the country through to the World Cup finals for the sixth time since 1978, and third time consecutively.
Iran cemented a top spot in Group A with 19 points from seven games, two points ahead of South Korea who are on the verge of qualifying for the finals after a 1-0 win over Lebanon in Sidon, reported Bein Sports.
Qualifier Iran is the 14th team to seal a place in the finals amongst Qatar, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, Netherlands and Argentina.
“Even as there were special circumstances before the match, I’m glad we managed to make people happy by making it into the World Cup,” Taremi told state television after the match.
The special circumstances he was referring to included the admission of women fans into stadiums, irregular ticket sales and the most recent Covid-19 wave.
Members of the national team were impacted by the overflowing spread of the virus, namely goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand. Other team members such as Ehsan Hajsafi, Majid Hosseini, Mehdi Ghaedi and Ahmad Nourollahi also missed the match against Iraq due to testing positive, news reported.
Amongst the cheering crowds following the referee’s final whistle were a number of Iranian women, who were granted access to the football stadium for the first time in three years.
Despite the fast pace momentum of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, the Azadi Stadium saw the participation of 10,000 fans, 2,000 of which were women.
“I am very happy. This is the first time I have attended a match at Azadi Stadium,” said a 26-year-old civil engineer who went by the name of Mahya.
In September 2019, FIFA requested Iran to permit women access to stadiums across the country, without strict restriction and in numbers determined by the demand for tickets.
A month later, women were able to witness one of their country’s initial Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying matches, against Cambodia in the Azadi Stadium, for the first time since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
The verdict came after a fan nicknamed the ‘Blue Girl’ set herself on fire in fear of being jailed for disguising as a boy in order to attend a match.
Since, the Covid-19 restrictions denied women access to the stadiums once again, until January 2022.
The US Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, congratulates ‘Team Melli’ (Iran National Football Team) for their victory on Thursday.
— Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley (@USEnvoyIran) January 28, 2022
A match between Iran and the UAE is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 1st February, in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.
Iran’s National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control has announced that the match will be held behind closed doors in efforts to control the further spread of Covid-19.