While Thursday's game marks a step forward for Iranian women watching football matches, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the cap of 4,600 female fans "discriminatory, deceptive, and risky".
Some of them painted their faces in the colors of the Iranian flag. For years, Federation Internationale de Football Association had avoided taking a hard line on Iran's exclusion of women, but as public pressure increased, it left open the possibility of banning Iran, an Asian soccer powerhouse, from qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup. Sahar Khodayari died last month after setting herself ablaze outside a court in fear of being jailed for trying to attend a match.
Thursday was a monumental day in Iran as thousands of women cheered on the men's national team inside Tehran's Azadi Stadium.
About 20 Irish women attended a World Cup qualifier in 2001, and four years later a few dozen Iranian women were allowed to watch the national "Team Melli" take on Bahrain.
By the end of the game, the Iranian side had won with a blowout of 14-0.
"Following several ID checks and inspections by Iran's morality police, we were finally allowed to enter.
FIFA was forced to pressure Iran's soccer federation because women paid a price, a woman [even] self-immolated herself; women have remained behind the closed doors of stadiums over and over, they've been beaten up, detained, and faced many other issues [because they wanted to attend men's football matches]".
"FIFA will continue to work closely with them, to help ensure that the right thing is done, which is to allow all fans, irrespective of gender, to have the chance to go to the stadiums and enjoy a game of football".
"Anything short of a full reversal of the ban on women accessing all football stadiums is an insult to Sahar's memory and an affront to the rights of all the women of Iran who have been courageously campaigning for the ban to be lifted".
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said more work needs to be done, but congratulated the supporters who attended. Amnesty International called the decision "a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities meant to whitewash their image". Ahead of Qatar 2022, Federation Internationale de Football Association has pressed Iran to allow women to attend qualifiers.
Campaigners also want to see women given access to all games, not just World Cup qualifiers which come under the direct responsibility of Federation Internationale de Football Association. One of the 3,500 women to have secured a ticket was Raha Poorbakhsh, a football journalist. But Iran denied its decision to allow women into Thursday's match was a result of "foreign pressure".
The woman, who runs the Open Stadiums network and uses the nickname Sara to hide her identity, left for Europe over concerns for her safety but returned to Iran this week She said she planned to take her mother to the stadium.
Expecting a large number of security forces, some activists said that they planned to stay away from the game. "Because we had restrictions this is very appealing to us otherwise it's not something special", she said.