Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Saudi women allowed to attend football match for first time

Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli queue at an entrance for families and women at the King Abdullah Sports City Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli queue at an entrance for families and women at the King Abdullah Sports City
Ellis Copeland | 14 January, 2018, 13:10

Saudi Arabia women made a new history on Friday by attending the Saudi Professional League in Jeddah, an activity that was limited to men for decades.

The first football match women are being allowed to attend is a clash between Saudi Premier League clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

On Thursday, women flocked to Le Mall in Jeddah to view the kingdom's first auto exhibition aimed at them, a few months after King Salman issued a decree granting them the right to drive from June 2018 - a move opposed by hardline clerics.

"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. However, the women had to sit in a "family section" of the stadium so that they would be separated from the male spectators.

Female Fans of Jeddah's al-Ahli Football Club wore green scarves over their black abayas during the match against the eastern province team of al-Batin. "Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organized", said Swick, who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American mother.

"As we speak; Saudi women fans are entering soccer stadiums!"

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While many welcomed the decision to allow women into stadiums, others spoke out against it.

The momentous occasion is part of the reforms being brought in by crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has pledged to "return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam".

There are still many things women are unable to do without permission, such as applying for passports, travelling overseas, opening a bank account and starting certain businesses. His reforms, which include allowing movie theaters to open in March after a more than 35-year ban, are also aimed at creating more jobs and increasing local spending on entertainment as the country faces several more years of budget deficit amid continued lower oil prices.

The women entered the stadium through a special gate, while male supporters filed in through a separate entrance.

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

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