Saudi Arabia allows women into sports stadium for first the time as special sections open for football match

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Al-Ahli took on Al-Batin at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah with women in the stands

The stands were far from full when Al-Ahli took on Al-Batin on Friday night but who was in the crowd was more significant than how many.

Saudi Arabian women filed into a football stadium in a first for the time at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

Saudi women watch a football match live for the first time (Image: REUTERS)

In a first for any sport in the Arab kingdom, entire families were welcomed into a match – although the stands permitting women were still segregated from all-male sections.

Saudi Arabia is easing restrictions on women in a series of social reforms led by the 32-year-old crown prince, which will also include women being allowed to drive from June.

A Saudi woman hands out flags before kickoff in the landmark match (Image: REUTERS)
A girl has her team’s colours painted on her face (Image: AFP)
Female security personnel were employed to screen the new visitors (Image: AFP)

Al-Ahli fans queue at the entrance for women and children only at the King Abdullah Sports City (Image: AFP)

Female security personnel in bright orange vests were deployed for Friday’s match to screen the first-time fans, most of whom wear black veils to cover their hair and face along with abaya, long black robes.

A sign in Arabic on the ‘family section’ said “Welcome to Saudi families” as women made their way through a women’s only car park and stadium entrance.

Among other new additions were female toilets and prayer areas.

The family section opens for the match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin (Image: AFP)
The sparsely populated stands included women for the first time (Image: REUTERS)
The inclusion of women is part of a series of reforms led by the young crown prince (Image: Anadolu)
Female Saudi supporters of Al-Ahly in their own section in the stands (Image: Anadolu)

Women were seen cheering on their respective teams and waving flags, some with their husband and children, during the one-sided fixture at the home of the Saudi Professional League leaders.

Their status at the top of the national league showed on the scoreboard, with four first-half goals leading the hosts to a 5-0 victory over the side sitting ninth on the table.

Female supporters find their way into the stadium in a kingdom first (Image: Anadolu)
Families cheer on the home side as Al-Ahli win 5-0 (Image: REUTERS)
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