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Saudi girls revel in World Cup football

Marian and Ghada al-Khalaf were over the moon this week when for the first time they were able to go to a football match and mingle with male fans.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 15:35 IST
DPA
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Marian and Ghada al-Khalaf were over the moon this week when for the first time they were able to go to a football match and mingle with male fans.

The al-Khalaf girls are from Riyadh, where women are barred from football stadiums - although in January the Saudi authorities relented and allowed Swedish women fans to watch a friendly international after protests from Stockholm.

Women, who face strict restraints in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, are required to cover from head to toe when in public and to stay separate from men.

Because of that Marian's and Ghada's mother Zaida stayed in her hotel room while her husband, Ahmed, took their daughters and sons Sami and Khalaf to see Saudi Arabia draw 2-2 with Tunisia.

"She feared she would be the centre of attention if she came in her chador," Ahmed said.

But his daughters were pleased to go to the stadium in shorts.

Only a couple of hundred Saudi fans have made the journey to Germany.

The reason as Ahmed said was apart from the sheikhs, the average monthly wage was low and it was difficult obtaining a visa.

First Published: Jun 17, 2006 15:35 IST