Saudi women attend soccer match for first time

by Garry Watts January 15, 2018, 1:13
Saudi women attend soccer match for first time

SAUDI Arabia will allow women to enter a football stadium for the first time to watch a match today, as the ultra-conservative kingdom eases strict decades-old rules separating the sexes.

Some pictures showed women with children entering the stadium, where signs were posted to indicate an entrance for families.

The first stadium to open its doors to women is in the Red Sea city of Jiddah for a match between Saudi soccer teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin Friday evening. "Those duties include transporting female students and teachers who do not wish to drive their own vehicles, and filling other vocational opportunities that require the presence of a woman trained to drive in a qualified and secure way", Al-Mutairi said.

"We expect the sales to rise in the hours ahead of the match", said Adel Kabli, the operating manager of e-ticket vendor Makani.

Saudi sports clubs have recently been targeting women through social media and advertising campaigns in order to drive up female attendance at the upcoming matches.

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Football is the number one sport in Saudi Arabia, where the national team qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation.

Women will view the games from stands in sections of each stadium with specially allocated seating for females and family.

Meanwhile in a historic decision in late 2017, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an nearly three decade ban based on religious reasons. The national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open to women a day later, on Saturday, followed by the western city of Dammam next Thursday. The historic opening comes only a few months after a Royal Decree lifting on the ban on women driving in the Kingdom and six months before they will actually be able to climb behind the wheel.

Saudi Arabia will begin issuing tourist visas in the first quarter of 2018, its top tourism official said, a first for the kingdom as it undergoes major economic and social reforms.

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