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In A First, Saudi Women to Attend Official Soccer Matches

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Sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia will open their doors to women to attend football matches for the first time ever on Friday, the government has announced on Monday, January 8.

“The first match that women will be allowed to watch will be Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin in the capital Riyadh, on Friday, Jan. 12,” the ministry of information said in a statement.

The statement said women would also be able to attend the second match on Saturday in Jeddah and a third one on Jan. 18, in the eastern city of Dammam.

The kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, has long barred women from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public. A male family member, usually the father, husband or brother must grant permission for a woman to study, travel and do other activities.

But the conservative kingdom has in recent months eased some of its most notorious restrictions on women, including the lifting of a driving ban set to go into effect in June.

The easing of social controls comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming.

As part of the crown prince’s reforms drive, Saudi Arabia announced in December it was lifting a decades-ban on cinemas with the first movie theaters expected to open in March.

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