An interview with some of the first women to watch a public football match in Saudi Arabia!
On Friday 12th January female spectators were allowed into a football stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42668841 It was the first time in Saudi history women had been permitted to enter and watch a match. As part of the changes happening here, football matches are now open to all (although single men and women/families must sit separately as is the norm in many public spaces).
Here in Al Khobar, we have one of the stadiums that is opening it’s gates to women – Al Ettifaq Club. The first match being Al Ettifaq v Al Fateh on 3rd February. I couldn’t make it as Bertie at 7 weeks was still feeding what seemed like every hour but some friends from work organised tickets and went along! Rachael and Megan have been kind enough to fill me on what happened, send some photos and let me share the experience on here.
Why did you decide to go along?
R: I love sports and attending sporting events like the London Olympics. I had a season ticket at Birmingham City FC whilst living in the UK so it is great to be able to watch local matches here. Plus what a cool thing to be able to do and be a part of Saudi history!
M: I go to quite a few Arsenal games back home and was keen to see the differences between football in England and Saudi. I think this time was mostly because it was the first game that women could attend in Dammam so thought it would be quite exciting to be able to say we were a part of that!
Were there many other women there?
R: There were not many women, probably just a few hundred out of about 2000 fans. We were the only Western people in the family/women allowed section.
What was the atmosphere like?
R: The atmosphere was fab, although mainly in the men’s section, with lots of chants and drums. We got involved which seemed to be fine and enjoyed by men with their families in our section. It was a little more subdued compared to the UK, with no announcements during the game, before or after. Being the only Westerners there, we were approached by a lot of young girls in half term to talk about Manchester United, Arsenal etc., making us feel like celebrities!
M: I was surprised by the atmosphere as the stadium was less that half full and in England that would usually mean a terrible and silent game. However, before the game even began the men’s section were playing drums and chanting – we felt quite sad to be in the women’s only section then haha! The chants, drums and everyone clapping along continued throughout the whole game which made a fantastic atmosphere even though opposite us were all empty seats.
Would you recommend more people go?
R: Definitely! It was a unique experience, there are children’s activities provided, tickets were only £7 and we felt like royalty the entire time!
M: I would definitely recommend it if people are into football, especially as there can be limited things to do in Saudi. Before the match there were stands with activites like scoring goals, big shoe races and lots of food vans so made a really nice evening out.
I am so glad I interviewed the girls about their experience. I will be booking tickets to attend a match in the future. Let me know if you do too! It is exciting living here in Saudi at the moment: things are changing!
Tickets can be bought on the day, Gate 4 for Women/Girls/Families and Gate 5 for men/singles. For fixtures and more information: Twitter/Facebook @ettifaq http://ettifaq.com