Saudi Arabia women score right to watch men's football in stadiums

Saudi Arabia women score right to watch men's football in stadiums

Saudi Arabia women score right to watch men's football in stadiums

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.

Saudi women watch the football match between Al-Ahli against Al-Batin at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

The ban on women was lifted thanks to liberal social reforms initiated by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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The stadiums were also fitted with female prayer areas and toilets, as well as separate entrances and auto parks for female spectators.

Women joined male spectators on Friday at the domestic soccer league match in the western city of Jeddah.

File from September 2016 of Saudi men and women at national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Local media said women would also have their own designated smoking areas.

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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 and for the kingdom's moves to catch up with civilised measures adopted by many countries", she said.

While many supported and welcomed the decision to allow women into stadiums, others spoke out against it.

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.

The government spent lavishly on them in an effort to appease young Saudis and provide spaces for fans eager to cheer on local clubs, as well as hold national parades and ceremonies.

Both clubs also reportedly offered shirts at discount prices to attract female fans.

"Today, you brought happiness to every Saudi family and woman who attended the first game", Reema Bandar Al-Saud, a deputy at the General Sports Authority and part of the Saudi Royal family, told CNN.

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