Women attend Football Matches in Saudi Arabia for the First Time

Posted January 15, 2018

The King Abdullah Sports City stadium recorded history when it was for the first time that a major sporting event was open to women in the kingdom.

"It is so much better here". Saudi women for the first time are allowed to enter a sports stadium to watch a soccer match.

"Ittihad fans, male and female, are the support of this club, and success is not complete without them coming together to serve this historic entity", the club tweeted.

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.

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Glass panels were set up to separate men supporters from the women and family section of the stadium. Previously, women caught inside a stadium were arrested.

"I came with my father and my brother - we're fans of Al-Ahli", said university student Areej al-Ghamdi, adding that she had always cheered the club from home."This is the first time we'll be cheering for real, not just in front of the television", she told the Agence France-Presse.

Social media Football is very popular in Saudi Arabia, with many fans of global and local leagues, but female enthusiasts long had to content themselves with watching their favourite teams on television. Although the authorities made rare exceptions to let foreign women watch football games, no such exceptions had been made for Saudi citizens.

Fatimah Baeshen, spokesman at the Saudi embassy in Washington "rooted for the ladies" in a message on Twitter.

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The decree opened the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, King Abdullah Sport City stadium in Jeddah, and Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd stadium in Dammam to women and families. People shared photographs of female fans preparing to enter the stadium.

Saudi Arabia still has a long ways to go in terms of boosting women's empowerment, but progress, no matter how slow it comes, is progress.

Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have championed lifting the ban as he is seeking to open up the country and revamp its global image.

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