Women in Saudi Arabia to attend football matches for first time

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Women in Saudi Arabia will this month for the first time be allowed to enter sports stadiums to watch football matches between local teams.

“The first match that women will be allowed to watch will be Al Ahli versus Al Batin on Friday January 12, followed by Al Hilal versus Al Ittihad the following day, and then a match between Al Ittifaq and Al Faisali on Thursday January 18,” said the ministry of information on Monday.

The first match will be held in the capital Riyadh, the second in Jeddah on the Red Sea and the third in the eastern city of Dammam.

The Saudi government announced in October last year that women in 2018 will be allowed to attend sporting matches in national stadiums, from which they were previously banned.

Three previously male-only venues — King Fahd International Stadium, King Abdullah Sports City, and Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Stadium — will be opened to women and families in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tested public reaction to the decision this year when he lifted the ban to allow women and families into the capital Riyadh’s main stadium for the National Day celebration.

Public reaction was positive. Hundreds of women went to the stadium for the first time to mark the country’s 87th annual National Day in September, donning national colours and cheering for their country.

Easing restrictions on women, including the lifting of a driving ban, which is set to go into effect in June, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 to overhaul the country’s oil-dependent economy and shed the kingdom’s ultra-conservative image.

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