Talking Soccer: Saudi Arabia allows women to go to soccer stadiums

In this Sept. 23, 2017 file photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi men and women attend national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi women will for the first time be allowed to enter a sports stadium on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The move is Saudi Arabia's first social reform planned for this year granting women greater rights.  (Saudi Press Agency/AP)

When it comes to women’s rights, Saudi Arabia isn’t at the forefront of change. The country is known for its strict rules on women traveling, their clothing and more.

But with the new Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there have been changes that have surprised the world. For the first time, the Arab nation will allow women to enter stadiums to watch soccer games.

Last Friday, Saudi women were allowed to watch a game between local teams. Although segregated from the male population in the stands in the “family section,” it’s nice to see changes for women in a country like this.

The cities of Jiddah, Riyadh and Dammam will open the doors of its stadiums for women who want to go the games.

The stadiums are prepared to receive the new demographic with female prayer areas, restrooms and separate entrance and parking lots for female fans who will also be allowed to drive starting in June.

It might not seem like a lot for a country who still forbids women from traveling abroad, getting a passport or marrying without the permission of a male relative, but it is a small step.

Progress all starts somewhere and this might be the start for change in the country. Sports have always been a way to draw attention, to create change in society and move society forward overall.

Pictures of women smiling and women welcoming families into the stadium did their rounds on the internet.

It was a great sight to see for people who are deeply interested in the development and advancement of women.

Of course there will be pushbacks, while some celebrated the victory others saw it as the dismantling of traditional values. Critics said things like ‘A woman’s place is in the house with the children’ and ‘Women shouldn’t be allowed in a place where there are men cursing.’

Change is coming late to Saudi Arabia – but slowly (and hopefully) change will continue for women in the sports worlds and their day to day world.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.