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Iran's National Soccer Team Sparks Change Back Home and Unites Its People

June 21, 2018

By Christian Smith

Iran is in the running to advance from the group stage of the FIFA World Cup, and the excitement over the team's performance is beginning to spark change back home.

For the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, women were allowed to watch the men's national team, Team Melli, compete in the World Cup at a televised watch party in Tehran's Azadi Stadium. It's an example of the powerful influence of the world's most popular sport, said Jeffrey Marcus, publisher of World Cup newsletter "The Banter."

"Iran is mad about sports, and specifically about soccer, in part because it's the one secular institution that really unites the whole country," Marcus said in an interview on Cheddar Thursday.

When it comes to letting women in Iran watch the national team on TV, Marcus noted, "It's not quite getting them into the stadium to watch a live match, but maybe that's next."

Team Melli, tweeted a photo of women inside the stadium cheering during its match against Spain with the caption "Azadi Stadium now."

Iran currently sits in the third spot in Group B behind Spain and Portugal. A win against Portugal on Monday would put it in the Round of 16 for the first time.

Team Melli has qualified for the current group stage five times: 1978, 1998, 2006, 2010, and 2018.

For the full interview, click here.