Saudi social reforms: Women attend soccer match for the first time
14 January, 2018, 00:35 | Author: Irene Delgado
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It was a historic moment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday night at King Abdullah Sports City stadium, not because Al-Ahli F.C. beat Al-Batin F.C. 5-0, but because women could walk through the venue's doors.
The move is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious project to modernise the Saudi society and boost its economy.
The match was hosted at King Abdullah Sports City stadium and featured Al Ahli against Al Batin in the Saudi Pro-League.
"This is an historic day in the kingdom which culminates in ongoing fundamental changes, " said Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another fan.
The decision to allow women to attend a mixed public sporting event is one of many changes the country has undergone in recent months, hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in the deeply conservative Muslim Kingdom.
Saleh al-Ziadi brought his three daughters to the game. "They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium", he said.
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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"I am proud and extremely happy for this development", she said.
The "family section" is for female soccer fans and women accompanied by male family members. "When you give women the chance to share attending game with men, this first of all reinforces allowing women to participate in matches, and secondly gives support to the team and the players, so that everyone, the whole community, shares the games with them", said Faisal bin Sibhan, an attendee.
The easing of social controls comes as Prince Mohammed looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming.
Jeddah resident Noura Bakharji was among those who patiently waited for her turn, and for a reason.
"I always watched games on TV while my brothers went to the stadiums..."
"Today, things have changed".
Some clubs are offering special abayas - traditional head-to-toe robes for Saudi women - in team colours. Fatimah Baeshen wrote on Twitter.
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