SOCCER/ Kashima wins Asian Champions League for 1st time

TEHRAN–Separated from male supporters, hundreds of Iranian women watched as Kashima Antlers of Japan won the Asian Champions League for the first time on Saturday.

Kashima beat Iranian champion Persepolis 2-0 on aggregate after the second leg ended 0-0 in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Women have been mainly prohibited from attending men’s games and other sports events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Today is a historic and festive day for football, a real breakthrough,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.

“I was delighted to personally witness that, for the first time in 40 years, Iranian female football fans were allowed to attend an official match again.

“The fact that over 1,000 women could cheer their favorite team and that this took place during Asian football’s most important game of the season … makes this occasion even more special.”

Persepolis was unable to recover from its 2-0 defeat in Japan a week earlier. Despite being backed by a sellout crowd of around 100,000 fans, Persepolis struggled to create chances.

Kashima appeared content to sit back and protect its first-leg advantage with Persepolis toothless in attack.

Since the J-League’s inaugural season in 1993, Kashima Antlers has been by far Japan’s most successful club team, winning a record eight domestic titles.