Saudi women score right to watch football in stadiums

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Female football fans entered a stadium in Saudi Arabia's western city of Jeddah on Friday, becoming the first women to attend a football match in the conservative kingdom.

Saudi women watch the football match between Al-Ahli against Al-Batin at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

"More than just an incremental step toward greater rights, the presence of women in the sports stadium underscored a wider effort to integrate women in society and grant them more public visibility", wrote ABC News.

Saleh al-Ziadi brought his three daughters to the game. "Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organised", said Ms Swick, who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American mother. "They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium", he said.

The arenas set up the "family sections" already used by other venues in Saudi Arabia, but also added female prayer areas and rest rooms.

Friday's match was played between Al-Ahli F.C. and Al-Batin F.C.

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"I am proud and extremely happy for this development", she said.

Friday's match was the first in a series that will be open to women: a second is due to take place on Saturday and a third on January 18.

The easing of social controls comes as Prince Mohammed looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming.

A decades long ban on cinemas was lifted in December as part of the crown prince's vision to boost the country's entertainment industry.

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. "I asked myself repeatedly 'Why I can't go?'" she told AFP. "It's a day of happiness and joy". It prepared for the historic match by tweeting an image featuring a woman's face painted in gold, the club's color.

Some clubs are offering special abayas - traditional head-to-toe robes for Saudi women - in team colours. Saudi families waited have long waited on this historic day to come.

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