Saudi Women Attend, Cheer at Live Soccer Match for the First Time


Saudi families waited have long waited on this historic day to come.

It follows a series of reforms meant to modernise the country. Many women excited about the new ability to watch live games - as well as men opposed to this - took to social media on Friday, writing under the Arabic hashtags #FamiliesEnteringStadiums and #ThePeopleWelcomeWomenEnteringStadiums.

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.

The stadiums have also been fitted with female restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators.

The game began at 8pm (1am today, Malaysian time), but two hours before the historic kick-off, enthusiasm was palpable as women supporters began arriving at the stadium.

"With this event, we are sure we are already moving towards a prosperous future", said Lamia Khalid Nasser, a 32-year-old resident of Jeddah. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she said.

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"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".

Last Friday's match was the first in a series that will be open to women: A second was due to take place yesterday, and a third on Thursday.

It was a far cry from 2015, when a Saudi woman who tried to attend a football game in Jeddah was arrested after she was spotted by security officers wearing pants, a long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection, local news outlets reported.

Saudi Arabia's royal family and religious establishment adhere to an austere form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are strictly enforced.

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. The move followed the country's first Comic Con convention in Jeddah in February.