While women across the United States rally around the promise of a monumental cultural shift under the hashtag, #MeToo, Saudi Arabia granted women permission to walk through the doors of a football stadium for the first time.  

For the first time in history, women and men stood as one - in this part of the world at least - supporting their teams from the stands, after years of being denied what most would view as a basic right.

Last week, in the country's capital, Riyadh, women for the first time were allowed to watch Al-Ahli against Al-Batin from inside the confines of the King Fahd Stadium.

The following day they were given the freedom to watch a match at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.  And today, a new vibe of inclusivity spreads.

"It's a historic game, the first in which Saudi families can enter a stadium together," said Lina Al-Maenna, a director of Jeddah United, Saudi Arabia's first women-only basketball team, in an interview with Arab News.

 "They are finally going to have activities and entertainment together where they're not separated, where parents go with their kids and mothers and even grandmothers, where they can enjoy sports events specifically, together. Eventually there will be a gradual increase (in the number of women watching live football), but I'm very excited to see the number of attendees."

7,500 miles away from Saudi Arabia, women currently make up 45 percent of the  NFL's fan base- per the NFL. Female viewership as a whole grew by 26 percent from 2009 to 2013, according to Athletic Business, an online resource for sports professionals,

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans have the biggest female fan base.

And high school girls are also playing the game in increasing though still small numbers.

Furthermore, a league that a few years ago was completely male dominated now experienced two female coaches, two female officials, three female (100 percent) owners and a female chief security officer. A small number to be sure but at least an improvement from the old days.

In a few weeks, 54 million women in the U.S. will watch the Super Bowl, almost half the total audience of 114 million.

7,500 miles away, for the first time in modern history, the women of Saudi Arabia, heard their voices in the roar of the crowd for 90 minutes.  To them, this was their Super Bowl.

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Published on: Jan 19, 2018