Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

In a first, women in Saudi Arabia attend a soccer match

In a first, women in Saudi Arabia attend a soccer match

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

Women supporters, all wearing the traditional black abaya robe, arrived well ahead of Friday's kick-off in the Jeddah stadium, some in sunglasses and others with loose-fitting veils.

"Family sections" are ubiquitous across the kingdom, allowing married couples, direct relatives and sometimes groups of friends to sit together, isolated from male-only tables at restaurants and in waiting areas at banks and hospitals. The stadiums have also been fitted with female restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators.

Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-year-old football fan from Jeddah, said she was proud and looking forward to the match.

Some used the hashtag to write that women's place should be in the home, focusing on their children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium where male crowds frequently curse and chant raucously.

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Saudi Arabia, which was the only country in the world to forbid female drivers, previous year also allowed women to drive in the country.

This easing of the strict gender segregation was announced as a part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious reforms.

The General Sports Authority announced in October that stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh will be set up to accommodate families starting in 2018.

Previously women could watch matches on television only.

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