Up to 20,000 fans will be allowed to watch the Tehran derby between Persian Gulf Pro League top two, Esteghlal and Persepolis, from the stands on Thursday.
Speaking to Iranian television on Monday night, Soheil Mehdi, the head of the Iranian league’s Competitions Committee, said: “A capped capacity of 30 percent of the Azadi Stadium will be allocated to 10,000 supporters of Esteghlal and Persepolis apiece.”
Online ticket sale for the 98th encounter between the familiar foes began on Tuesday.
Fans have been kept out of the Iranian stadiums since the coronavirus first broke out in the country in February 2020 with the exception of two occasions, when a limited number of spectators watched Esteghlal’s home fixture against Nassaji Mazandaran and the game between Persepolis and San’at Naft Abadan – both at the Azadi Stadium – last November.
The stadium also hosted some 10,000 fans in January when Iran beat Iraq 1-0 to secure a place at the 2022 World Cup.
Esteghlal, unbeaten after 22 rounds of play this season, holds a six-point lead over its archrival on top of the table heading into Thursday’s match.
With eight games to spare until the end of the season, any result other than a victory for Persepolis could all but end the Tehran-based Reds’ quest for a record-extending sixth successive league trophy.