Saudi women were only allowed into a football stadium in January 2018. They will now be able to play there competitively. Saudi Arabia, which is trying to shake off its image of an ultra-conservative kingdom, will launch a 16-team women’s football championship on November 22. The announcement was made on Saturday by the Saudi Football Federation.
This tournament will take place in two stages, with teams competing first in three regional leagues in Riyadh, the capital, Jeddah and Dammam. The teams qualified at the end of the regular phase will play the final phases in early 2022 in Jeddah.
A more comprehensive reform movement
The creation of this championship is an “important moment” for the federation, said its president, Yasser al-Misehal, and is part of a program to support women’s football launched in 2017.
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia recently embarked on a broad program of economic and social reforms that includes relaxing bans on women.
Sport to restore the country’s image
Saudi leaders, criticized for the kingdom’s human rights abuses, have been using sport as a diplomatic lever for several years to improve the country’s image on the international scene. In early October, the Saudi fund PIF, chaired by Mohammed ben Salman, bought the English club Newcastle, 19th in the Premier League after 11 days.