Saudi football stadium welcomes women for first time

Women showed up to their first public sporting event in Saudi Arabia after new reforms

"Today, you brought happiness to every Saudi family and woman who attended the first game", said Reema Bandar Al-Saud, a deputy at the General Sports Authority and part of the Saudi Royal family was quoted as saying by CNN.

Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have championed lifting the ban as he is seeking to open up the country and revamp its worldwide image. It also seeks to get Saudi families to spend more of their money on entertainment at home instead of going overseas to have fun. At the game, a former Saudi sports journalist shared a photo of female ushers preparing to greet the female fans and their families.

The prince will inherit a country in which more than half the population is under the age of 25 and yearning for progressive change, which will soon include allowing women into movie theaters and encouraging them to work in the Saudi labor market.

Earlier on Friday, ahead of the football game, there was another small sign of change: the country's first auto showroom dedicated to female customers was opened. "But thank God that it came at the right time, and hopefully what's to come will be even more lovely for women". I came all the way here to support the team of Al-lttihad. Many girls follow football and we gather at game time.

A soccer match on Saturday in the capital Riyadh will also be welcoming women fans.

The women entered the stadium through a special gate, while male supporters filed in through a separate entrance.

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

Although tickets were only 20 riyals (€4.37), the family section for Friday's match was less than half full. People shared photographs of female fans preparing to enter the stadium.

The Saudi Ministry of Information confirmed last week that authorities had scheduled three professional league games in three different stadiums where women could observe live from stadiums in January.

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