Courtesy of AFP
The moment is finally here. Following the landmark decision last year to allow women in Saudi Arabia for the first time to enter major sports stadiums across the Kingdom, it has recently been announced that women will be able to attend three football matches this month pitting local sides against each other in the Saudi Professional League competition.
The first match will be Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin on Friday January 12, followed by Al-Hilal versus Al-Ittihad the following day, and then a match between Al-Ittifaq and Al-Faisali on Thursday January 18.
Jeddah’s Al Jawhara Stadium is already prepared, with Gulf News reporting that pictures of the facilities “have been circulating on social media and building up excitement among fans and supporters. Facilities include prayer rooms, powerful air-conditioners and toilets. Even a smoking zone for women was prepared […] The fifth floor of the stadium, with a capacity of 10,000 seats, has been reserved for women to attend sporting events.”
In October of last year, the General Sports Authority (GSA) issued a decision that three stadiums, King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, and Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam (up to now male-only facilities), would be ready to accommodate families, including allocation of special places for seating and entrances.
Following the announcement, Princess Reema Bandar Bint Al Saud, Vice President for Women’s Affairs of the General Sports Authority, expressed her delight with the decision on Twitter, writing that the stadiums are set to “open their doors to welcome women in 2018,”and adding that the decision “warms the hearts of the nation’s women. Congratulations to us.”
The decision to allow women into stadiums came on the heels of a recent historic decree granting women in the Kingdom the right to drive, a ruling that will also take effect this year. Both are part of a series of landmark decisions empowering women in the Kingdom, in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which is focused on diversifying the Kingdom’s economy and steering it away from its dependence on oil revenues.