Saudi Arabia's Football Stadium Welcomes Women For First Time

13 January, 2018, 13:51 | Author: Sherman Richardson
  • Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli queue at an entrance for families and women at the King Abdullah Sports City

In a historic decision late previous year, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an nearly three-decade ban based on religious reasons.

The easing of the strict gender segregation was announced in October 2017 which also, for the first time, allowed women to drive.

The so-called "family sections" were created to keep women separated from the male-only crowds, while the stadium was also fitted with female prayer areas and restrooms.

Some pictures showed women with children entering the stadium, where signs were posted to indicate an entrance for families.

The game began at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), but two hours before the historic kick-off enthusiasm was palpable as women supporters began arriving at the stadium. An Arabic hashtag on Twitter about women entering stadiums had more than 50,000 tweets by mid-day. All three stadiums were previously male-only, CNN reported.

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

It follows a series of reforms meant to modernise the country. This is more than women's rights: today's match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin, and the ones to follow, are opportunities for families to come together and enjoy KSA's national sport - soccer! "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.

Some women had been allowed to watch National Day festivities at the Riyadh stadium in September a year ago. One female was arrested for attending a game in Saudi Arabia back in December 2014.

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

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