Saudi football clubs are appealing directly to female fans for support through ad campaigns and social media as women are allowed into stadiums for the first time on Friday.
The official Twitter account for Al-Ittihad directed a tweet toward the club’s female fans on Tuesday. It said that women were powerful agents in the success of the team, just like their male counterparts.
Two weeks ago, a campaign was launched for fans to show their support for their favorite teams through SMS texts. Al-Ittihad’s tweet is riding on the hype surrounding women attending the club’s match.
Al-Ittihad’s offical tweet generated a massive response from the team’s lovers and haters alike. Elaaf tweeted: “We’re finally being addressed as a part of Ittihad’s fanclub.”
Many couldn’t believe they were finally being noticed. One Twitter user said: “I never thought I’d live to see such a tweet, we’re all here for you.”
Others such as Twitter user Shikha provided proof of their contribution by posting photos of the sent text, while many women declared they were now switching support to Al-Ittihad for being the first to address them as an audience.
One die-hard fan tweeted: “I will attend the classico match and I’ll even pay for tickets for other girls attending.”
Dedicated Al-Ittihad female fans are preparing to attend the club’s first match of the year against Al-Hilal on Jan. 13, in Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium. Al-Ahli fans will be called on to show up for a Jeddah match against the visiting Al-Batin team on Friday in the King Abdullah Sports City stadium.
The General Sports Authority (GSA) revealed the seating plan for the Riyadh match. Inside the stadium, women will occupy the northern area through gates two, three and four, and the southern area through gates 40, 41 and 42. They are are expected to fill 7,500 seats.
Head of the Saudi Federation for Sports Media, Raja Al-Sulami, told Arab News that they have made the stadium ready to receive women. He added: “In cooperation with the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, we have made all necessary arrangements to receive them in an atmosphere that respects their privacy.” He added that there are 14,000 seats at the Jeddah’s “Shining Jewel” stadium ready for the occasion.
Many Saudi women celebrities reacted to the news of the weekend matches positively.
Shoura Council member and founder of the Jeddah United basketball team Lina Almaeena told Arab News: “I’m ecstatic! It’s a historical moment in Saudi for women. It’s a huge alternative for them to go to the stadium together and enjoy their time, other than going to malls or dining out. It’ll have an impact on many levels, socially, economically and on a family level.”
Almaeena is thrilled and will attend the other football match that will be held on Friday between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin in Jeddah.
Hadeel Al-Shumrani, the first Saudi Zumba trainer and also an actress, is a big football fan. “For me Al-Ittihad is not just a club it is more than that, as you can see in most of the matches how the spirit of the fans and how they encourage their team,” she told Arab News.
“I would absolutely attend the game with my friends,” she added. “I believe such activities are very useful for women to enrich our sports knowledge and it also grows positive competition spirit, hopefully we will be able to participate in games in the coming years.”
Diehard female national football fans are also looking forward to the big day.
“I never thought I’d ever be able to attend a football match in Saudi! I will be at the soccer match to support my team! Hilal all the way!” 19-year-old Sara Abdul-Aziz said.
The excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. For decades, female fans would have to watch games on TV screens; now they have a chance to see the action live.
Rania bin Yassin, a mother of four, told Arab News: “I’d love to attend with my brothers. They always go the matches together, but this time, I will attend with them! It’s definitely a new experience that I’m looking forward to!”
Women are gearing up with face paint and team shirts to show their support and enthusiasm. Dedicated female soccer fans have previously traveled abroad to watch the matches and cheer their teams on.