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

Press Agency SPA Saudi men and women attend national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. Saudi women will for the first time be allowed to enter a sports stadium

Around 300 women attended a local football game in the Saudi city of Jiddah on Friday, in a historic first for the deeply conservative Islamic nation.

The first stadium is to open its doors to women in the Red Sea city of Jiddah on Friday.

The notorious driving ban on women was lifted in September 2017, and this week Saudi Arabia will host its first ever women's squash tournament.

Now, women attending games must remain in designated "family sections", which are separate from other, all-male portions of the bleachers.

The government's General Sports Authority said this week that three stadiums had so far been modified to accommodate women through the addition of private sections for women and their male relatives, female bathrooms and even prayer areas. 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!

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The introduction of women to soccer matches in Saudi is part of reforms in the Kingdom with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, seen by many as the face of that change.

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

The Islamic kingdom has announced a series of reforms initiated by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since a year ago.

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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