JEDDAH: For years Areej al-Ghamdi might solely cheer her favorite soccer group from house, however all the things modified on Friday when Saudi Arabia allowed ladies into the stadium for the primary time.
The college scholar was amongst round 300 Saudi ladies who thronged Pearl stadium within the Purple Sea metropolis of Jeddah after the extremely-conservative kingdom eases many years-previous guidelines separating the sexes.
“I got here with my father and my brother — we´re followers of Al-Ahli,” stated Ghamdi of the Saudi Premier League membership dealing with off towards Al-Batin.
The younger lady stated she all the time used to cheer her residence workforce from the consolation of her front room.
“We love the membership very a lot, and our residence would typically grow to be an area for supporters,” she stated.
“That is the primary time we´ll be cheering for actual, not simply in entrance of the tv,” stated Ghamdi, who wore a black abaya gown and a black scarf with a inexperienced Al-Ahli scarf around her neck.
“It’s so a lot better right here.”
The sport started at eight:00 pm (1700 GMT), however two hours earlier than the historic kick-off enthusiasm was palpable as ladies supporters started arriving on the stadium.
Among the many first was a lady accompanied by a youthful feminine and a woman.
A boy sat subsequent to them in seats that had been reserved for ladies who come alone or with members of their households, specifically male relations.
The ladies entered the stadium by way of a particular gate, whereas male supporters filed in by means of a separate entrance.
Saudi Arabia, which has a number of the world´s tightest restrictions on ladies, has lengthy barred them from sports activities arenas by means of strict guidelines that maintain the sexes aside in public.
Glass panels have been set as much as separate males supporters from the ladies and household part of the stadium.
“This occasion proves that we’re heading for a affluent future. I’m very proud to be a witness of this large change,” Lamya Khaled Nasser, a 32-yr-previous fan from the Purple Sea metropolis, informed AFP.
Ruwayda Ali Qassem, one other Jeddah resident, spoke of a “historic day within the kingdom which culminates (in) ongoing elementary modifications”.
“I’m proud and very comfortable for this improvement and for the dominion´s strikes to meet up with civilised measures adopted by many nations,” she stated.
Saleh al-Ziadi introduced his three daughters to the sport.
“My daughters nonetheless don´t consider that is occurring. They haven’t but realised they are going to be cheering their favorite workforce contained in the stadium,” he stated.
The ladies getting into the venue waited in lengthy queues to be searched by ladies safety personnel who wore orange vests over their black abayas, whereas contained in the stadium one other staff directed them to their seats.
Jeddah resident Noura Bakharji was amongst those that patiently waited for her flip, and for a cause.
Bakharji stated she all the time felt bitter when her brothers got here house from stadiums to inform her concerning the pleasure of watching soccer matches in individual.
“I all the time watched video games on TV whereas my brothers went to the stadiums… I requested myself repeatedly ´Why I can´t go?´” she informed AFP.
“Right now, issues have modified. It´s a day of happiness and pleasure.”
Underneath Saudi Arabia´s present guardianship system, a male relative — usually the daddy, husband or brother — should grant permission for a lady´s research, journey and a number of different actions.
Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman on the Saudi embassy in Washington “rooted for the women” in a message on Twitter.
“As we converse; Saudi ladies followers are getting into soccer stadiums! That is greater than ladies´s rights: in the present day´s match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin, and those to comply with, are alternatives for households to return collectively and luxuriate in KSA´s nationwide sport — soccer! I´m rooting for the women — take pleasure in!” Baeshen tweeted.
Friday´s match was the primary in a collection that can be open to ladies: a second is because of happen on Saturday and a 3rd on January 18.
And in June, as a part of a reforms drive led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, authorities are lifting a ban that prohibited Saudi ladies from driving.
And the results of Friday´s recreation? A 5-zero defeat for Al-Batin — and a victory for ladies in Saudi Arabia.
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