RIYADH: History was made in Jeddah on Friday night — and then came Riyadh’s turn.
Pink tickets were issued for today’s football match between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad, the second since a ban on women attending games in Saudi Arabia was lifted.
There was cheer in the capital as women started arriving at the King Fahd International Stadium, with face painting, food trucks and other fun activities outside the ground.
Scores of women signed a board to mark their attendance at the historic match.
Inside the stadium, women were waving flags and singing team anthems as the game kicked off.
Siham, an Al-Ittihad fan, said she had never felt happier, or more free.
“I’m quite surprised by the turn out! I assumed families will attend, which is true. However, the amount of ladies coming together in groups to have a good time and enjoy the match overweighs the number of families,” she told Arab News.
Layla, another fan in the crowd, said: “This is a joyous day; tonight we all stand together, teams aren’t the main focal point; us attending is. And we will cheer until our throats go sore.”
Amid the contagious excitement of the crowd, a further cheer erupted as Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan — president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, and a champion of women participating in sport — entered the stadium.
Princess Reema waved to the crowd and sat chatting with some fellow fans in the stadium.
One elderly father was with almost 30 female relatives at the game, including his daughters and nieces.
Sitting a few rows back from them, he looked on happily as the ladies cheered and waved their team’s flag.
Fans of both teams sat in the same area — united by both a love of football, and the new freedom to watch it in person.
The game follows Friday night’s showdown at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah, which saw Al-Ahli host Al-Batin in a Saudi Pro League meeting.
The decision allowing women in stadiums was first announced on Oct. 29, a month after a historical royal decree lifting the ban on women driving.
— جريدة الرياض (@AlRiyadh) January 13, 2018