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Saudi allows women at football game for first time

Saudi allows women at football game for first time

Saudi women were allowed to attend a soccer game between two local teams in Jeddah on Friday. Women will now be allowed to attend the matches, but will have to sit in segregated areas away from men, and must wear loose-fitting, full-length robes known as 'abayas, ' as well as a headscarf, if they are Muslim.

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.

Attendance for Saudi Arabian football has recently been in decline, and the decision to permit women in stadium is expected to help remedy that problem.

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.

"I came with my father and my brother - we're fans of Al-Ahli", said Ghamdi of the Saudi Premier League club facing off against Al-Batin.

In another change, the Saudi Education Ministry announced women could enter colleges with a cellphone and even make calls and surf the net. Although the authorities made rare exceptions to let foreign women watch football games, no such exceptions had been made for Saudi citizens.

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Fatimah Baeshen, the first spokeswomen to work for the Saudi embassy in Washington, also commented on the historic move. 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!

And the result of yesterday's game? People shared photographs of female fans preparing to enter the stadium.

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.

And in June, as part of a reforms drive led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, authorities are lifting a ban that prohibited Saudi women from driving.

"It's really exciting to be watching a match in Saudi Arabia and to be the first match that woman are allowed".

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