Middle East

Saudi female football fan: 'We wanted to enter stadiums and we did'

Sarah Alkashgari at the first football match in Saudi history that permitted female spectators Image copyright Sarah Algashgari
Image caption Sarah Alkashgari at the first football match in Saudi history that permitted female spectators

A woman who helped to organise Saudi Arabia's first football match allowing female spectators has told the BBC it was a "great and surreal" experience.

Football fan Sarah Alkashgari, 18, made history after she not only attended but worked at Friday's match in Jeddah.

Unaccompanied adult women were allowed to enter the stadium to watch Al-Ahli play Al-Batin.

The move is part of an easing of strict rules on gender separation in the kingdom.

Ms Alkashgari, a student at King Abdulaziz university, was responsible for greeting guests and showing them to their seats.

"It was about women finally achieving one of their demands. We wanted to enter the stadiums and we did," she explained.

Image copyright Sarah Algashgari
Image caption Sarah Algashgari in the King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, on Friday at her first football match

"I'm a hardcore football fan. I like playing it and watching it."

"But I haven't been to a football match before. This was my first one. As a Saudi woman, it was more than a match.

"It was about contributing in any way I can, even if it was as part of a 200-girl team helping to organise," she continued, adding that watching her team, Al-Ahli, win 5-0 at home was "amazing".

A second football match with female spectators in attendance took place on Saturday and a third will take place on Thursday.

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Ms Alkashgari put photographs from the match on social media in a tweet that was liked more than 14,000 times.

Many of the comments in reaction were supportive of the change of policy, which comes ahead of women being allowed to drive in the socially conservative kingdom.

Jose Moreno, a sports reporter in Seattle, US, offered her his congratulations.

"I was surprised with the amount of support and love people have given me. They were supporting the women in Saudi Arabia," she explained, highlighting that she received messages from across the world, including from Ireland, Chile, India, and the US.

Ms Alkashgari says the sudden changes in her country have been extraordinary.

"Not only can we go to matches now but, in the future, we will be able to drive. It's so amazing to see all this empowerment for girls.

"We're finally showing the world what true Islam means. As a young Saudi woman, I couldn't be prouder to contribute to the change and see it happen."

Reporting by Abdirahim Saeed and UGC & Social news team

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