Saudi women fill stadium to watch first live men's football game

Supporters arrive at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah for Friday's game AFP

The stadiums were also fitted with female prayer areas and toilets, as well as separate entrances and vehicle parks for female spectators.

The move is part of an easing of restrictions on women initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the conservative Muslim country.

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

In 2015, a Saudi woman who tried to attend a football game in Jeddah was arrested after local media said she was spotted by security officers "deliberately disguised" in pants, a long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection.

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To prepare for the change, the kingdom has designated "family sections" in the stands for women. And for 22-year-old Al Hilal fan Ghadah Grrah, she can not contain her excitement as she is finally able to go and watch them play. "They have not yet realised they will be cheering their favourite team inside the stadium", he said. "I asked myself repeatedly 'Why I can't go?'" she told AFP. One female was arrested for attending a game in Saudi Arabia back in December 2014.

A football match on Saturday in the capital Riyadh will also be welcoming women fans.

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

"This is more than women's rights: today's match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin, and the ones to follow, are opportunities for families to come together and enjoy KSA's national sport - soccer!"

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