Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Saudi women attend a football match

Saudi women attend a football match

Women fans filed into a stadium in the city of Jeddah on Friday, through family gates into family seating. The stadiums have also been fitted with female restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators.

"A lot of people wanted to wait and see how it is".

The game began at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT), but two hours before the historic kick-off enthusiasm was palpable as women supporters began arriving at the stadium.

While many welcomed the decision to allow women into stadiums, others spoke out against it.

Saudi private company on Thursday opened the first vehicle showroom for women only just five months before a decision allowing females to drive takes effect.

Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have championed lifting the ban as he is seeking to open up the country and revamp its worldwide image.

The country's large new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now.

In a one-off, the stadium in Riyadh allowed families to enter and watch National Day festivities in September - marking the first time women had set foot inside.

"Today, you brought happiness to every Saudi family and woman who attended the first game", said Reema Bandar Al-Saud, a deputy at the General Sports Authority and part of the Saudi Royal family was quoted as saying by CNN.

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.

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