Saudi women allowed into football matches for the first time

Saudi Arabia

Saudi women will for the first time be allowed to enter a sports stadium on Friday to watch a soccer match between two local teams - though they will be segregated from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the so-called "family section".

Sheikh Saleh al Fozan, a member of Saudi Arabia's top religious body, reiterated a common argument against women driving.

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. "This is a historic moment for the Kingdom".

"I am proud and extremely happy for this development and for the kingdom's moves to catch up with civilised measures adopted by many countries", she said before kick-off.

The 32-year-old son of the king, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is the face of that change and many younger Saudis hope he will be able to modernise a very traditional nation.

Despite lifting the gender-based road restrictions, Saudi Arabia continues to have one of the most discriminatory laws against women, who are still severely restricted and must live under the supervision of a male guardian in their families in order to study, travel. or even to receive hospital treatment.

Meanwhile, UBER has already announced a plan to open centres for recruiting women drivers, who the company calls "partners".

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The reform is in line with the kingdom's Vision 2030 programme that seeks to elevate women to almost one-third of the workforce, up from about 22 percent now.

Noura Bakharji, another Jeddah resident, said she always felt bitter when her brothers came back from stadiums to tell her about the excitement of watching football matches in person.

He went on to say that the princes were slapped with "false and illogical" accusations of caring too much about "money and the pleasures of the world". "It's a day of happiness and joy".

According to representatives of the Saudi Arabian Premier League, there has been negative reaction on social media.

Some clubs are offering special abayas in team colours.

At least 1,200 tickets have been bought by women and families for Friday's game, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported, citing a sales official.