Saudi women enter stadium to watch soccer for the first time

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The move is Saudi Arabia's first social reform planned for this year giving women greater rights.

Although they were placed in the "family section", segregated from the male-only section, and had a separate entrance, parking lot and prayer area, they were allowed to cheer, take pictures and enjoy the action on the pitch just like men have been doing for decades.

Around 7,500 seats in the 62,000-seat King Abdullah Stadium were made available to women and families, according to Saudi sports authorities.

On Saturday, the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open its gates for women to attend a soccer game. Soccer is very popular in Saudi Arabia, with many fans of global and local leagues, but female enthusiasts long had to content themselves with watching their favorite teams on television.

The match was hosted at King Abdullah Sports City stadium and featured Al Ahli against Al Batin in the Saudi Pro-League. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she told the AFP news agency.

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Swick, who grew up in Maryland and has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past nine years, has attended football games in the US and soccer matches in France, but said she was impressed with how organized Friday night's match was.

Some people used the hashtag online to write that women should stay at home to focus on children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium packed with males.

However, strict guardianship laws are still in place, which forbid women from marrying without a male relative's content, traveling overseas and securing a passport.

The country's large, new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now.

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