Saudi stadiums allow women in for soccer game for the first time

Posted January 14, 2018

Saudi Arabia has allowed women to enter stadiums to watch men's football matches for the first time in the kingdom's history as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases the strict rules separating the sexes.

Saudi women were allowed to attend a soccer game between two local teams in Jeddah on Friday.

The notorious driving ban on women was lifted in September 2017, and this week Saudi Arabia will host its first ever women's squash tournament.

In the stadium, keeping in mind the women spectators, a "family entrance" was created.

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

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Reema said the day marked a historic moment for the kingdom.

Local media said women would also have their own designated smoking areas.

As the two teams al-Ahli and al-Batin faced each other in the city of Jeddah, women showed up to their first public sporting event in the Kingdom to support the sides with their spouses, children and friends.

"A lot of people wanted to wait and see how it is".

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter about women entering stadiums garnered tens of thousands of tweets on Friday, with some using the hashtag to share photos of female spectators wearing their team's colours in scarves thrown over their black abayas.

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"I am proud and extremely happy for this development and for the kingdom's moves to catch up with civilised measures adopted by many countries", she said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has been hailed as the face of these changes.

However, strict guardianship laws are still in place, which forbid women from marrying without a male relative's content, traveling overseas and securing a passport.

Women could attend the match after strict gender segregation was eased by authority in October previous year.

Both clubs also reportedly offered shirts at discount prices to attract female fans.

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In 2015, a Saudi woman who tried to attend a football game in Jeddah was arrested after local media said she was spotted by security officers "deliberately disguised" in pants, a long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection.