9 January 2018
Women and families enjoying the 87th annual National Day celebration last September © Reuters
Women in Saudi Arabia will this week be able to attend football matches for the first time ever, the government has confirmed.
“The first match that women will be allowed to watch will be Al Ahli versus Al Batin on Friday January 12," said a statement from the Ministry of Information.
This will be followed by Al Hilal versus Al Ittihad the following day, and then a match between Al Ittifaq and Al Faisali on Thursday 18 January 18.
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.
“It’s an historic game, the first in which Saudi families can enter a stadium together," said Lina Al-Maeena, a Shura member and director of Jeddah United, the first women-only basketball team.
"They are finally going to have activities and entertainment together where they’re not separated, where parents go with their kids and mothers and even grandmothers, where they can enjoy sports events specifically, together.
"It’s an opportunity for mothers to enjoy watching their children cheering, and for them and younger women to cheer as well. I really think it reinforces family values.”
The original decision was first announced one month after the issuance of a royal decree lifting a ban on women driving.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tested public reaction last September when he lifted the ban to allow women and families into the capital Riyadh’s main stadium for the National Day celebration. Hundreds of women sent a strong message and went to the stadium for the first time ever.
Strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public do, however, still remain and under Saudi Arabia's existing guardianship system, a male family member - normally the father, husband or brother - must grant permission for a woman's study, travel and a host of other activities.
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