The Saudi women were allowed to watch the game from the 'family section' as part of the social reforms planned for this year to ease restrictions on women.

Female Saudi supporters of Al-Ahli attend their teams football match against Al-Batin in the Saudi Pro League at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on January 12, 2018.
Female Saudi supporters of Al-Ahli attend their teams football match against Al-Batin in the Saudi Pro League at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on January 12, 2018. ( AFP )

Saudi women were allowed into a sports stadium for the first time Friday to watch a soccer match between two local teams though they were segregated in the stands from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the so-called "family section."

The move was the first of Saudi Arabia's social reforms planned for this year to ease restrictions on women, spearheaded by the kingdom's 32-year-old crown prince. The kingdom has also announced that starting in June women will be allowed to drive under certain conditions, lifting the world's only complete ban on female drivers.

The first stadium to open its doors to women was in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open to women on Saturday, followed by the western city of Dammam on Thursday.

Female Saudi supporters of Al-Ahli attend their teams football match against Al-Batin in the Saudi Pro League at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on January 12, 2018.
Female Saudi supporters of Al-Ahli attend their teams football match against Al-Batin in the Saudi Pro League at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on January 12, 2018. ( AFP )

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter about women entering stadiums garnered tens of thousands of tweets on Friday, with some using the hashtag to share photos of female spectators wearing their team's colors in scarves thrown over their black abayas.

Not everyone happy

While many welcomed the decision to allow women into stadiums, others spoke out against it.

Some used the hashtag to write that women's place should be in the home, focusing on their children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium where male crowds frequently curse and chant raucously.

In a one-off, the stadium in Riyadh had allowed families to enter and watch National Day festivities earlier in September 2017 — marking the first time women had set foot inside.

In 2015, a Saudi woman who tried to attend a soccer game in Jeddah was arrested after local media said she was spotted by security officers "deliberately disguised" in pants, a long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection.

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

In 2015, an Australian female supporter of Western Sydney Wanderers soccer club was permitted to attend a match at Riyadh's main stadium and a group of American women traveling with a US Congress delegation also watched a local club match there.

Source: AP