Saturday, 20 January, 2018

Saudi women score right to watch soccer in stadium

Saudi women to attend football game for first time In a first, women in Saudi Arabia attend a soccer match
Sammy Stanley | 14 January, 2018, 13:09

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.

"It is so much better here".

Among the first were a woman accompanied by a younger female and a girl.

The move came after the decision to allow females to drive effective from the mid of this year and the opening of cinema theatres. The women however had to enter through designated turnstiles for women and families.

"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.

The prince will inherit a country in which more than half the population is under the age of 25 and yearning for progressive change, which will soon include allowing women into movie theaters and encouraging them to work in the Saudi labor market.

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Women could attend the match after strict gender segregation was eased by authority in October a year ago. Stadiums will also have separate cafes and prayer rooms for women.

Saleh al-Ziadi brought his three daughters to the game.

Noura Bakharji, another Jeddah resident, said she always felt bitter when her brothers came back from stadiums to tell her about the excitement of watching football matches in person.

The Saudi government said last week women would be allowed to attend a second match on Saturday and a third next Thursday. "I asked myself repeatedly 'Why I can't go?'" she told AFP. "It's a day of happiness and joy".

"Family sections" are ubiquitous across the kingdom, allowing married couples, direct relatives and sometimes groups of friends to sit together, isolated from male-only tables at restaurants and in waiting areas at banks and hospitals. "I'm rooting for the ladies - enjoy!"

According to the Saudi Gazette, Al-Ahli trounced Al-Batin 5-0 in the Premier League match.

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