Women in Saudi Arabia attend football matches for first time

Women in Saudi Arabia attend football matches for first time

Saudi Arabia has allowed women to enter stadiums to watch men's football matches for the first time in the kingdom's history as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases the strict rules separating the sexes. Local media said women would also have their own designated smoking areas.

Friday's match was played between Al-Ahli F.C. and Al-Batin F.C.

Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old from Jeddah, told Agence France-Press she was proud and looking forward to the match.

"This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future. I feel very proud because I am witness to this change".

"This is an historic day in the kingdom which culminates in ongoing fundamental changes, " said Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another fan.

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Earlier on Friday, ahead of the football game, there was another small sign of change: the country's first auto showroom dedicated to female customers was opened.

Al-Ittihad, one of the country's top football clubs, playing in a derby game in front of mixed spectators on Saturday. It prepared for the historic match by tweeting an image featuring a woman's face painted in gold, the club's colour. Soccer is very popular in Saudi Arabia, with many fans of global and local leagues, but female enthusiasts long had to content themselves with watching their favorite teams on television. "With you, the scene is complete".

Women could attend the match after strict gender segregation was eased by authority in October previous year.

The Saudi General Sports Authority said that it had made all the necessary preparations to create an attractive sports environment for families and to ensure their privacy.

Ahead of the game on Friday, clubs took to Twitter to encourage women to attend, with some even offering the traditional abaya robe in team colours.

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