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

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

Saturday, 13 January, 2018 - 09:15
Supporters arrive at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah for Friday's game, AFP
Jeddah – Marwan al Maliki, Asharq Al-Awsat
Years after diligently cheering on their favorite national team, Al-Ahli Saudi FC female fans were allowed for the first time to watch the game live from stadiums.

Live from Saudi Arabia’s sports pride, The Shining Jewel stadium, over 4,000 fans coming in with their families packed the arena, sources told Asharq Al Awsat. Saudi families waited have long waited on this historic day to come.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was one of the prominent figures among the attending crowd, sources cited.

Al Ahli’s match was a social media spectacle and international media also kept its eyes locked. It is the first time that Saudi female citizens and families attended sporting events in 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 feel very proud because I am witness to this change."

Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, called Friday a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes."
I am proud and extremely happy for this development," she said.

Saudi authorities announced on October 30, lifting the ban on women entering sports stadiums, allowing them to attend events in three stadiums as of 2018.

The Saudi Ministry of Information confirmed last week that authorities had scheduled three professional league games in three different stadiums where women could observe live from stadiums in January.

Jeddah resident Noura Bakharji was among those who patiently waited for her turn, and for a reason.

Bakharji said she always felt bitter when her brothers came home from stadiums to tell her about the excitement of watching football matches in person.

"Today, things have changed. It's a day of happiness and joy."

Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman at the Saudi embassy in Washington "rooted for the ladies" in a message on Twitter.

"As we speak; Saudi women fans are entering soccer stadiums! This is more than women's rights: today's match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin, and the ones to follow, are opportunities for families to come together and enjoy KSA's national sport -- soccer! I'm rooting for the ladies -- enjoy!" Baeshen tweeted.

Friday's match was the first in a series that will be open to women: a second is due to take place on Saturday and a third on January 18.

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