Saudi women enter stadium to watch soccer for the first time

Saudi women attend sports event for first time

Saudi Arabia: Women watch football match in stadium for first time

On Thursday, Jiddah also held the nation's first vehicle exhibit aimed at women.

It was a historic moment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday night at King Abdullah Sports City stadium, not because Al-Ahli F.C. beat Al-Batin F.C. 5-0, but because women could walk through the venue's doors.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has been hailed as the face of these changes.

The women soccer fans in Saudi was able to watch a match, for the first time, between two local teams in Jeddah on Friday.

Enthusiasm for the historic encounter began well before the scheduled 8:00 pm kick-off.

The female spectators, segregated in the "family section" of the stands, stood and cheered when local players scored goals. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she told AFP. "They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium", he said. "I think there's a lot of excitement when you walked in, especially among the children", said Sarah Swick of the match between Saudi football teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin.

Under his guidance, some aspects of the kingdom's guardianship system - which has aligned the country with a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and under which a woman must have a male companion with her in public at all times - have become more relaxed.

In October, the Saudi General Sports Authority, a state agency, announced that three stadiums, up to now male-only facilities, would be prepared to be ready for families, including the allocation of special places for seating and entrances. On Saturday, the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open its gates for women to attend a soccer game.

The easing of social controls comes as Prince Mohammed looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming. "I asked myself repeatedly 'Why I can't go?'" she told AFP.

"Today, things have changed".

And a spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in the United States tweeted her delight at the development. Fatimah Baeshen wrote on Twitter.

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