Saudi women watch men's soccer in stadiums for first time

14 January, 2018, 00:34 | Author: Katrina Soto
  • Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli queue at an entrance for families and women at the King Abdullah Sports City

For the first time in Saudi Arabia, women were allowed to attend a men's football match at King Abdullah Stadium on Friday.

The kingdom, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has launched a series of reforms on women's rights.

The first stadium to open its doors to women was in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The game is scheduled to kick off at 8 pm (1700 GMT), but enthusiasm for the historic encounter has begun well before the referee's whistle is blown.

Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, spoke of a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes".

The female spectators, segregated in the "family section" of the stands, stood and cheered when local players scored goals.

Saleh al-Ziadi brought his three daughters to the game.

"I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change". "They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium", he said.

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Live from Saudi Arabia's sports pride, The Shining Jewel stadium, over 4,000 fans coming in with their families packed the arena, sources told Asharq Al Awsat.

The Saudi government said last week women would be allowed to attend a second match on Saturday and a third next Thursday.

Under his guidance, some aspects of the kingdom's guardianship system - which has aligned the country with a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and under which a woman must have a male companion with her in public at all times - have become more relaxed.

Women joined male spectators on Friday at the domestic soccer league match in the western city of Jeddah.

A decades long ban on cinemas was lifted in December as part of the crown prince's vision to boost the country's entertainment industry.

The women entering the venue waited in long queues to be searched by women security personnel who wore orange vests over their black abayas, while inside the stadium another team directed them to their seats.

"I always watched games on TV while my brothers went to the stadiums... It's a day of happiness and joy". Fatimah Baeshen wrote on Twitter.

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