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Women attend football matches in Saudi Arabia for first time

Female football fans entered a stadium in Saudi Arabia’s western city of Jeddah on Friday, becoming the first women to attend a football match in the conservative kingdom.

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Women wearing green and white scarves to represent their team colours lined up to enter the stadium, images posted by Saudi newspaper Okaz on Twitter showed.

Some pictures showed women with children entering the stadium, where signs were posted to indicate an entrance for families.

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Some 10,000 seats have been allocated for women and families in King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah for the domestic league match between al-Ahly and al-Baten – one of three games that Saudi authorities said women would be allowed to attend this month.

Women will also be allowed to attend a match on Saturday in the capital Riyadh and on Jan. 18 in the eastern city of Dammam.

At least 1,200 tickets have been bought by women and families for Friday’s game, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported, citing a sales official.

“We expect the sales to rise in the hours ahead of the match,” said Adel Kabli, the operating manager of e-ticket vendor Makani.

Both teams sold female shirts at discount prices to attract women supporters, Saudi media reported.

Football is the number one sport in Saudi Arabia, where the national team qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In October, the Saudi General Sports Authority, a state agency, announced that three stadiums, up to now male-only facilities, would be prepared to be ready for families, including the allocation of special places for seating and entrances.

In September, Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz announced that women would be allowed to drive starting from June, a move that ended a long ban.

Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have championed lifting the ban as he is seeking to open up the country and revamp its international image. 

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