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

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Jeddah: Saudi Arabia allowed women to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a match on Friday, as the kingdom eases strict decades-old rules separating the sexes.

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.

Females spectators on Friday cheered on two of the teams in the Saudi Professional League, Al-Ahli F.C. and Al-Batin F.C. Al-Ahli won 5-0.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia, has taken steps to modernize the country with a bold, progressive blueprint to change the country socially, economically and politically with Saudi Vision 2030. 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.

Basketball club Al Ittihad tweeted their thanks to their female fans' support.

Previously women could watch matches on television only.

Between 2008 and 2010, Saudi Arabia ran a trial of the tourist visa system which saw more than 32,000 tourists visit the kingdom.

The event is being held in a shopping mall in the port city of Jeddah, and comes just a few months after a royal decree lifted a longstanding ban on women driving in the kingdom.

Driver service apps are to start hiring women drivers in Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom announced in September that women would be allowed to drive starting from next June. Most are Saudi nationals.

Read:These photos show another side of Saudi ArabiaCould Saudi Arabia's male guardianship law soon come to an end?

The announcement that Saudi Arabia will allow families into three sports stadiums was made a year ago, in a landmark move that opened up the previously male-only venues to families.



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