Saudi Arabia allows women at football game for first time

Fans watch a match at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah

For the first time in history, women in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to attend a football match in Jeddah. The move comes as part of a wave of additional rights being granted to women in response to intense pressure from activists.

Around 300 women attended a local football game in the Saudi city of Jiddah on Friday, in a historic first for the deeply conservative Islamic nation.

Some pictures showed women with children entering the stadium, where signs were posted to indicate an entrance for families. The decision to allow women to attend soccer games â€' albeit in "family sections" that keep them separate from the all-male sections â€' is part of these efforts. Pictures of fans flying club colors were posted by Saudi newspaper Okaz. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she told the AFP news agency. "It is so much better here".

Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman at the Saudi embassy in Washington "rooted for the ladies" in a message on Twitter.

Both teams sold female shirts at discount prices to attract women supporters, Saudi media reported. The showroom was opened in a shopping mall in the western Red Sea port city of Jeddah to allow women the freedom to choose their own cars before they hit the road.

Around 7,500 seats in the 62,000-seat King Abdullah Stadium were made available to women and families, according to Saudi sports authorities.

Some women had been allowed to watch National Day festivities at the Riyadh stadium in September past year. The notorious driving ban on women was lifted in September 2017, and this week Saudi Arabia will host its first ever women's squash tournament.

The Islamic kingdom has announced a series of reforms initiated by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since a year ago. One of the changes is to allow women to drive cars, a move which is set to take full effect in June. According to The Independent, last week the first women-only vehicle show was on display.

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