Saudi social reforms: Women attend soccer match for the first time

Saudi social reforms: Women attend soccer match for the first time

However, the women had to sit in a "family section" of the stadium so that they would be separated from the male spectators. Saudi families waited have long waited on this historic day to come. Some rules have changed under King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who became the country's ruler in 2015.

Al Ahli's match was a social media spectacle and worldwide media also kept its eyes locked.

In October, the kingdom's General Sports Authority announced that stadiums in Jiddah, Riyadh, and Dammam would be altered to allow for family visits.

Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old from Jeddah, told Agence France-Press she was proud and looking forward to the match.

"I am proud and extremely happy for this development and for the kingdom's moves to catch up with civilised measures adopted by many countries", she said before the scheduled 8pm (5pm GMT) kick-off.

In 2015, an Australian female supporter of Western Sydney Wanderers soccer club was permitted to attend a match at Riyadh's main stadium and a group of American women traveling with a U.S. Congress delegation also watched a local club match there.

Saudi social reforms: Women attend soccer match for the first time
Saudi social reforms: Women attend soccer match for the first time

Women supporters, all wearing the traditional black abaya robe, arrived well ahead of kick-off in the Jeddah stadium, some in sunglasses and others with loose-fitting veils.

"Today, things have changed".

Fatimah Baeshen, the first spokeswomen to work for the Saudi embassy in Washington, also commented on the historic move. Most restaurants and cafes have two sections, one for just men and one for families, which are for women and their husbands and families.

The match was hosted at King Abdullah Sports City stadium and featured Al Ahli against Al Batin in the Saudi Pro-League. "I'm rooting for the ladies - enjoy!"

Swick, who grew up in Maryland and has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past nine years, has attended football games in the USA and soccer matches in France, but said she was impressed with how organized Friday night's match was.

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