New Sound at Saudi Soccer Game: Women Cheering From the Stands

Hannah Rogers
January 14, 2018

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.

In Saturday's match Al-Hilal drew 1-1 versus Al-Ittihad.

Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old football fan from Jeddah, told AFP she was proud and looked forward to the match.

The momentous occasion is part of the reforms being brought in by crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has pledged to "return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam".

The female spectators, segregated in the "family section" of the stands, stood and cheered when local players scored goals.

Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, said Friday was a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates [in] ongoing fundamental changes".

Social media was also abuzz.

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The women showed up in the stadium with their spouses and children to support al-Ahli and al-Batin football clubs.

Some used the hashtag to share photos of female spectators wearing their team's colors in scarves thrown over their abayas.

The result meant Al-Ahli closed the gap on table toppers Al-Hilal to one point.

Construction teams had scrambled to build female toilets and line off a women-only parking lot ahead of the game.

The so-called "family sections" were created to keep women separated from the male-only crowds, while the stadium was also fitted with female prayer areas and restrooms.

The General Sports Authority announced in October that stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh will be set up to accommodate families starting in 2018. "The Kingdom wants to increase participation of women in the Saudi labor market and other aspects of life", wrote CNN.

After achieving the right to drive, it appears that women in Saudi Arabia are bent on extirpating the unfair rules prevailing in the country.

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