Photos of women in Saudi Arabia cheering on in a football stadium went viral on Sunday (Jan 14). This was the first time that such a societal norm was broken.
It was only late last year that Saudi Arabia decided to allow women into sports stadiums. The rule was implemented as 2018 began. The authorities confirmed in October last year that three male-only venues will open their doors to families too.
Sunday’s football match was the first in the country for women in the women and family section of the stadium. It was a clash between Saudi Premier League clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in the Red Sea city of Jeddah
Saleh al-Ziadi, accompanying his three daughters to the game, said, “My daughters still don’t believe this is happening. They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium,” India.com reported.
HISTORY. Yesterday, female football supporters were able to watch the Saudi Pro League match between Al-Ahli & Al-Batin in Jeddah. Women sat in family sections, with special turnstiles & prayer areas. ⚽️🙌🇸🇦 pic.twitter.com/xN2jBPLlfx
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) January 13, 2018
These women were either alone or accompanied by their families. Many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah’s Pearl stadium. However, glass panels were separately set up for male supporters.
“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,” said Ruwayda Ali Qassem, a Jeddah resident. She called it a “historic day in the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing fundamental changes”
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken charge, his move to bring fundamental rights and to provide more opportunities to women are being praised worldwide. The first landmark decision was to allow women to drive from June this year.
Recently, Saudi Arabia launched its first ever Girls’ Council. Also, the authorities have finally allowed women to enter cinemas.
Saudi women attend football game for the first time. pic.twitter.com/DlZrlStYWB
— VOA DEEWA (@voadeewa) January 15, 2018
"I always watched games on TV while my brothers went to the stadiums… I asked myself repeatedly 'Why I can't go?'" Noura Bakharji said.
"Today, things have changed. It's a day of happiness and joy."
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) January 12, 2018
Haifa, 30 years old, attended several football matches in Saudi…dressed as a boy. “Today, I get to share my happiness without having to hide” Tonight marks the first football match that allows women to attend. https://t.co/3TLVTIo90r
— Tasneem Alsultan (@tasneemalsultan) January 13, 2018
— CIC Saudi Arabia (@CICSaudi) January 8, 2018
Delighted with the development, Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in the United States, tweeted: