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.
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.
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.
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.