#BBCtrending: The female football fan causing outrage in Saudi Arabia

  • 8 October 2014
Saudi female football fans taking a selfie
Image caption Saudi female football fans at the AFC Champions League semi-final match

A female spectator cheering for a Saudi football team has angered men on social media in the country.

Her team lost, so it's no wonder she was frustrated. Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal were defeated 2-1 by the UAE's Al Ain in the Asian Champions League semi-finals last week. A clip of the match has been viewed almost 400,000 times on YouTube, but it's not the scything tackle on a player from Al Hilal that angered fans commenting on it. Following the tackle, the camera picks out an angry fan of the Saudi team - a woman fully covered in a black abaya and niqab. In Saudi Arabia itself, women are banned from attending football matches, but since the game was taking place in the UAE, this spectator - together with several other women cheering for Saudi, like those pictured above - were able to join their fellow male supporters in the stadium.

Over 900 people have commented on the clip, most of them angry men, critical of the unidentified woman for being in a stadium filled with thousands of men. "Women aren't interested in football, so why go to a stadium to watch a live match?" wrote one. "Does this woman not have a man? Her place is in the house," said another. Many who oppose women being allowed into stadia say it encourages immoral and sinful behaviour. Others say it puts women at risk of being harassed.

Lina Al Maena, a former athlete and advocate for girls' sports in Saudi Arabia, takes issue with the idea that women should stay away to save themselves from harassment. "Women are harassed whether in malls or on the streets, so I don't understand why stadia would be any different," she says, adding "why should I be punished for a man's actions?" She thinks that attitudes may be changing, however. "There's a lot more acceptance of women's involvement in sports today than there used to be a decade ago," she says. Local newspaper reports in Saudi Arabia suggest the government is considering building separate sections in stadia for female spectators.

Reporting by Mai Noman

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