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Published: Mon, January 15, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Saudi women attend a football match

Saudi women attend a football match

Female soccer fans in Saudi Arabia attended their first match ever Friday at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah.

On Friday, Al-Ahli trounced Al-Batin 5-0 in the Premier League match, according to the Saudi Gazette.

"Today, you brought happiness to every Saudi family and woman who attended the first game", said Reema Bandar Al-Saud, a deputy at the General Sports Authority and part of the Saudi Royal family. Sheikh Saad Al Hijiri sparked outrage when he said that women should not be allowed to drive because their brains were smaller than men's.

The initiative, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.

The kingdom, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, has long barred them from sports arenas through strict rules that keep the sexes apart in public.

CNN said that after the decree was issued, the company launched a series of training sessions targeting Saudi women who have already acquired valid driving licenses while overseas.

Alone or accompanied by their families, many women sat in reserved seats in Jeddah's Pearl stadium.

The perennial clash between Saudi Arabian soccer rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad normally ranks low on the worldwide sporting calendar. It prepared for the historic match by tweeting an image featuring a woman's face painted in gold, the club's colour.

For years activists fought for the right to drive, fed up with relying on expensive male drivers or male relatives to get to work or go out and about.

Thus, in September'17, in a historic decision, the king revoked the ban on women drivers.

Details are emerging on how tourist visas to Saudi Arabia will work, as the kingdom opens itself up to global visitors.

The announcement that Saudi Arabia will allow families into three sports stadiums was made past year, in a landmark move that opened up the previously male-only venues to families.

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