JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 17 – Chaperoned by men, thousands of women thronged a Saudi stadium Wednesday for the Italian Supercup final between Juventus and AC Milan, brushing off a controversy over entry restrictions.
With painted faces and banners, female football fans entered the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in western Jeddah city through designated turnstiles for “families”, with solo women barred from purchasing tickets.
The restriction had sparked a furious reaction in Italy, with deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini calling it “disgusting”.
But with reports there were up to 15,000 women among the 62,000 crowd, accompanied by men or male children, Italian football league president Gaetano Micciche hailed the turnout a success.
Serie A president Gaetano Micciche said the presence of women in the stadium would go down in history as the first international competition that Saudi women were allowed to watch in a stadium.
Long condemned for harsh restrictions on women, Saudi Arabia last year eased decades-old rules separating the sexes to allow women to enter sports stadiums for the first time with their families.
The decision was part of a wide-ranging reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that is aimed at modernising the conservative petro-state.
The reforms include overturning the world’s only ban on women drivers last June.