Women in Saudi Arabia attend first soccer game under new law

Women supporters of Al Ahli queue to get in to the football stadium in Jeddah

Saudi Arabia has always been one of the world's most restrictive places for women, where a combination of religion, social custom and government regulation has dictated what they wear and barred them from driving, holding a range of jobs and traveling as they wish. "Ittihad fans, male and female, are the support of this club, and success is not complete without them coming together to serve this historic entity", the club tweeted.

Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women must be accompanied by a male family member to travel, and work.

Women will also be allowed to attend a match on Saturday in the capital Riyadh and on January 18 in the eastern city of Dammam. Local media said women would also have their own designated smoking areas.

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

Females were in attendance at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah to witness Al-Ahli defeat Al-Batin 5-0.

Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli at the stadium in King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah

The initiative to allow women into stadiums is part of the government's Vision 2030 program, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and aimed at giving more freedom to women.

The prince will inherit a country in which more than half the population is under the age of 25 and yearning for progressive change, which will soon include allowing women into movie theaters and encouraging them to work in the Saudi labor market. "Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organised", said Swick, who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American mother.

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.

Over the years, though, there have been some exceptions for foreign women.

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