Saudi women were in the stands to watch Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin face each other in the city of Jeddah on Friday, just months before the national team kick off the Federation Internationale de Football Association 2018 World Cup against host Russia, in the opening match of the tournament on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
It was October past year, Saudi Arabia lifted the ban to allow women to watch football games in the three stadiums, marking the historic first time for women to watch professional sports games. Women will now be allowed to attend the matches, but will have to sit in segregated areas away from men, and must wear loose-fitting, full-length robes known as 'abayas, ' as well as a headscarf, if they are Muslim.
Dozens of women attended soccer games in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
Attendance for Saudi Arabian football has recently been in decline, and the decision to permit women in stadium is expected to help remedy that problem.
"This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future", football fan Lamya Khaled Nasser told AFP.
The university student was among around 300 Saudi women who thronged Pearl stadium in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after the ultra-conservative kingdom eases decades-old rules separating the sexes.
Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another Jeddah resident, said Friday was a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates [in] ongoing fundamental changes". "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change".
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Some pictures showed women with children entering the stadium, where signs were posted to indicate an entrance for families.
"Today, things have changed".
Fatimah Baeshen, spokesman at the Saudi embassy in Washington "rooted for the ladies" in a message on Twitter.
The result of last Friday's game?
Saudi Arabia still has a long ways to go in terms of boosting women's empowerment, but progress, no matter how slow it comes, is progress.
The kingdom, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has launched a series of reforms on women's rights.
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