Saudi women creates history by watching soccer match

Letting women into sports stadiums is one of a series of gender reforms occurring in Saudi Arabia

The first stadium to open its doors to women was in the Red Sea city of Jiddah.

"This event proves that we are heading for a prosperous future", football fan Lamya Khaled Nasser told AFP.

Saudi security forces have rounded up dozens of members of the political and business elite, holding them in Riyadh's opulent Ritz Carlton hotel on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, they were forced to sit in a "family section" that separated them from the male fans.

"This is an historic day in the kingdom which culminates in ongoing fundamental changes, " said Ruwayda Ali Qassem, another fan.

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

The result meant Al-Ahli closed the gap on table toppers Al-Hilal to one point.

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"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. It prepared for the historic match by tweeting an image featuring a woman's face painted in gold, the club's colour.

At least 1,200 tickets have been bought by women and families for Friday's game, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported, citing a sales official. "With you, the scene is complete".

For the first time, women will this June be allowed to get behind the wheel, after it was announced in September that a ban on women drivers would be lifted.

The Saudi General Sports Authority made a statement that it is ready to make all the compulsory preparations to generate an attractive sports ambiance for families and to make sure their privacy.

Construction teams had scrambled to build female toilets and line off a women-only parking lot ahead of the game.

Al-Ahl beat their opponents 5-0 in the Saudi Professional League clash.

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