Saudi women score a first by attending football match

Women in the

Saudi women attend sports event for first time

Saudi Arabia has allowed women to spectate at a stadium sporting event for the first time.

Some women had been allowed to watch National Day festivities at the Riyadh stadium in September a year ago.

A Saudi woman cheers during the soccer match between Al-Ahli against Al-Batin at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Jan. 12, 2018.

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.

In another change, the Saudi Education Ministry announced women could enter colleges with a cellphone and even make calls and surf the net.

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 it was a "historic day in the kingdom which culminates [in] ongoing fundamental changes".

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 said.

Fatimah Baeshen, the first spokeswomen to work for the Saudi embassy in Washington, also commented on the historic move. Although the authorities made rare exceptions to let foreign women watch football games, no such exceptions had been made for Saudi citizens. People shared photographs of female fans preparing to enter the stadium. "But thank god that it came in the right time, and hopefully what's to come will be even more lovely for women. I'm rooting for the ladies - enjoy!"

And the result of yesterday's game?

The Saudi government said last week women would be allowed to attend a second match on Saturday and a third next Thursday.

The kingdom has announced a series of reforms initiated by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since past year. A 5-0 defeat for Al-Batin - and a victory for women in Saudi Arabia.

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