Saudi Arabia allows women at football game for first time

14 January, 2018, 00:35 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Letting women into sports stadiums is one of a series of gender reforms occurring in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will allow women to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a match on Saturday, as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases strict decades-old rules separating the sexes.

The showroom was opened in a shopping mall in the western Red Sea port city of Jeddah to allow women the freedom to choose their own cars before they hit the road.

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. "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.

But even segregated as they were, their presence in the stadium marked a significant moment for the Kingdom. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case, and many of these women have undergone slavery-like situations in Saudi Arabia.

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"A lot of people wanted to wait and see how it is".

"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.

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

Despite the breakthrough, there are still a host of basic human rights denied to women without the permission of a man, including applying for a passport, travelling overseas, and getting married.

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It follows a series of reforms meant to modernise the country.

In 2015, a Saudi woman who tried to attend a football game in Jeddah was arrested after local media said she was spotted by security officers "deliberately disguised" in pants, a long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection.

Both teams sold female shirts at discount prices to attract women supporters, Saudi media reported.

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