Author: ASEEL BASHRAHEELTue, 2017-12-26 03:00ID: 1514242812611253400
JEDDAH: The upcoming year 2018 will herald a new dawn for Saudi female football enthusiasts. For the first time in the history of the Kingdom, women will be allowed to enjoy a football match in a stadium.
The much-awaited match will take place between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad clubs at Riyadh’s King Fahd Stadium on Jan. 12.
The decision was first announced on Oct. 29, a month after the issuance of a royal decree lifting a ban on women driving. Riyadh’s King Fahd Stadium, Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City and Dammam’s Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium are the only stadiums that will be allowed to welcome family audiences.
Lina Al-Maeena, a Shoura member and director of Jeddah United (first women-only basketball team), told Arab News: “It’s a historic game, the first in which Saudi families can enter a stadium together… They are finally going to have activities and entertainment together where they’re not separated, where parents go with their kids and mothers and even grandmothers, where they can enjoy sports events specifically, together. It’s an opportunity for mothers to enjoy watching their children cheering, and for them and younger women to cheer as well. I really think it reinforces family values.”
Al-Maeena predicts a large audience. “Eventually there will be a gradual increase, but I’m very excited to see the number of attendees.”
Twitter is abuzz with excited female fans who cannot wait to experience cheering in person for their favorite teams for the very first time. Manal Qamash reacted to the news with a tweet saying, “YES! I can finally experience this!”
Shahad Ahmad promised to be “the very first female to step into that stadium.” Meanwhile, Nada Al-Ghamdi from Jeddah, expressed her disappointment at the game taking place in Riyadh and said: “Why’s the game not taking place in Jeddah? I really wanted to attend.”
Many male fans displayed their displeasure at the prospect of sharing stadiums with families, referring to the traditional reasons, and their belief that football is a masculine sport. In response, Al-Maeena said: “The first thing that comes to my mind is that the holy land we live in is a non-segregated environment; when we go around the Ka’aba and when we perform Sa’i, it’s a mixed environment. When you look at the core pillars of Islam, in the fifth one, Al-Hajj, there is no segregation.” She added that as long as everyone maintains decency and modesty, there should be no obstacles.
“I’m sure the government has already mentioned its preparations with security reinforcements just to make sure everything is under control, from entrances to public services. When they announced the news, they said it would take place in 2018 to give them time to implement the new changes. The facilities are well prepared and developed as is, but of course, some changes were needed to accommodate families.”
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