Tehran: Iranian women will finally taste freedom after decades of being banned from male sporting events. Starting Thursday, women in Iran will be free to enter a football stadium, after FIFA threatened to suspend the Islamic republic over its controversial male-only policy.

The country had banned women spectators from football and other stadiums for around 40 years, with clerics arguing they must be shielded from the masculine atmosphere and sight of semi-clad men. The ban on women in stadiums is not written into law or regulations, but it has been strictly enforced. Despite a lot of female fans, Iran is the only country that forbids women from attending male sporting events.

Last month, FIFA finally ordered Iran to allow women access to stadiums without any restrictions and in numbers determined by demand for tickets.

After the ban was lifted, women didn’t waste any time and quickly bought tickets to attend Iran’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cambodia at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Thursday. And as expected, the first batch of tickets were sold out in under an hour.

FIFA had to intervene after a fan dubbed “Blue Girl” died after setting herself on fire. Sahar had set herself alight following the postponement of her trial after she was caught entering a football stadium disguised as a man.Reportedly, she had overheard someone in court saying that could get six months to two years in prison if proven guilty and convicted. She then lit herself with fire in front of the court house and succumbed to death on September 10.

Her death sparked an outcry from Iranian and international soccer players. Many Iranians also called for a boycott of soccer games until the ban on women attending matches is lifted.