Saudi Arabia, under domestic and international pressure to grant women sporting rights, is creating separate stadium sections so that female spectators and journalists can attend soccer matches in a country that has no public physical education or sporting facilities for women.
Soccer is emerging as a focal point of dissent in Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich kingdom that despite banning demonstrations by law is struggling to fend off the waves of change sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
Fans are voting with their feet. Not in mass protests -- as those that toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen -- but by staying away from matches. What effectively amounts to a fan boycott, is most evident in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The Arab Spring uprisings have pushed back reforms of gender discriminatory laws in the region. It would be ironic if the course of women's rights in one of the most repressive Muslim countries flowed against this trend.
The images of two strong, courageous young Saudi women athletes will forever exist as part of Saudi history. If you listen to the voices of the women interviewed herein, you can hear that a bell of hope and expectation has been rung.
Saudi Arabia is building its first stadium especially designed to allow women who are currently barred from attending soccer matches because of the kingdom's strict public gender segregation to watch games.
The future of the Saudi rulers, who represent the most prestigious institution of power in the Muslim lands, is unpredictable. The "unity" of the opposed King and new Crown Prince could turn into open conflict.
American women take for granted, and sometimes even bemoan, the soccer-mom type need for driving themselves and others around on errands. Yet for years, my Saudi friends in America have held out this commonplace activity as a hope.
To say that Saudi King Abdullah's decree to give women the right to vote and become Shoura Council members is a historic moment would be an understatement. The women's suffrage movement is only part of the story.