Jeddah United team pose for a photo before their match with Sadad in the first women’s basketball tournament in Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Okaz

Manama: Saudi Arabia held its first basketball tournament for women in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Saturday — a first for the country.

University of Business and Technology beat Dar Al Hekma University at a game held in King Abdullah Sports City — attended exclusively by women.

“The event demonstrated women’s passion for sports and this game undoubtedly gives greater impetus to other events that will increase interest and calls among women to promote the concept of community sports,” Leena Al Maeena, Member of the Shura Council and a founding member of the Jeddah United basketball team, said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Sunday.

The event, which included other sporting activities, started with an opening match between Jeddah United and Sadad, followed by games by the other six teams in the competition for the title.

Rasha Al Harbi, the founder and leader of Bliss Run, a non-profit team promoting women’s health through different sports programmes, said that the tournament was a historic event for Saudi women.

“We have prepared the sporting event for some time and we are pleased with the outcome, especially that it was held in Al Jawhara in King Abdullah Sports City,” she said.

“For the first time, Saudi women are allowed to exercise their natural right to community sports, to enter a stadium and cheer for their teams. For the first time they can say ‘ I am going to the stadium to watch a women’s game.’ It was great. The organisers were keen on the privacy of the spectators and on having well marked entry and exit ways to ensure a smooth flow of movement.”

The tournament also aimed to raise funds for and spread awareness for breast cancer.

Last month, Saudi Arabia said it would allow women to watch sporting events in the main stadiums in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam starting on January 1.

The breakthrough decision was seen a major boost for women.

It came a few days after Saudi Arabia said that women would be allowed to drive in June following intense preparations to facilitate the process.

In July, the education ministry said that female students were to take physical education classes at school.