World Media

Women attend football match for first time ever in Saudi Arabia

Women attend football match for first time ever in Saudi Arabia

Women were allowed to attend a football match for the first time ever in Saudi Arabia on Friday.

These recent reforms are under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is attempting to make the Kingdom more moderate.

For the first time, women will this June be allowed to get behind the wheel, after it was announced in September that a ban on women drivers would be lifted.

"But thank god that it came in the right time, and hopefully what's to come will be even more lovely for women".

The first stadium to open its doors to women was in the Red Sea city of Jiddah.

Attendance for Saudi Arabian football has recently been in decline, and the decision to permit women in stadium is expected to help remedy that problem.

To prepare for the change, the kingdom designated so-called "family sections" in the stands for women, separated by barriers from the male-only crowds. The stadiums have also been fitted with female restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators.

Swick, who grew up in Maryland and has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past nine years, has attended football games in the US and soccer matches in France, but said she was impressed with how organized Friday night's match was. Both ushers and fans wore the traditional black abaya robe.

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A hashtag, translated as "the people welcome the entry of women into stadiums", was used tens of thousands of times in two hours as the match took place.

Under Saudi Arabia's existing guardianship system, a male family member - normally the father, husband or brother - must grant permission for a woman's study, travel and a host of other activities.

The move came after the decision to allow females to drive effective from the mid of this year and the opening of cinema theatres.

The country's large, new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now.

The General Sports Authority announced in October that stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh will be set up to accommodate families starting in 2018.

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

Over the years, though, there have been some exceptions for foreign women.

Women fans filed into a stadium in the city of Jeddah on Friday, through family gates into family seating.


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