For years Areej al-Ghamdi could only cheer her favourite football team from home, but everything changed on Friday when Saudi Arabia allowed women into the stadium for the first time.
The university student was among around 300 Saudi women who thronged Pearl stadium in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after the ultra-conservative kingdom eases decades-old rules separating the sexes.
“I came with my father and my brother — we’re fans of Al-Ahli,” said Ghamdi of the Saudi Premier League club facing off against Al-Batin.
The young woman said she always used to cheer her home team from the comfort of her living room.
“We love the club very much, and our home would often become an arena for supporters,” she said.
“This is the first time we’ll be cheering for real, not just in front of the television,” said Ghamdi, who wore a black abaya robe and a black scarf with a green Al-Ahli scarf round her neck.
“It is so much better here.”
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.
Among the first were a woman accompanied by a younger female and a girl.
A boy sat next to them in seats that had been reserved for women who come alone or with members of their families, namely male relatives.
The women entered the stadium through a special gate, while male supporters filed in through a separate entrance.
Source : News Agencies