Why Can’t Women Be Football Fans?

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“Why aren’t women easily accepted into the fold by male football supporters in India?”, asks Amreen Bhujwala…

India – Where everyone’s supposed to be equal according to our laws and there isn’t supposed to be any bias based on caste, religion, or sex.

India is where I live, and India is where I’ve learnt to survive as a female football fan.

I’m sure there are many like me out there, but when it comes to voicing our opinion, apart from ranting on Social Media there’s nothing much we can really boast about. Society is so used to demeaning the status of the Indian woman, that at the end of the day, she forgets who she really is at times.

And when it comes to something like football, which is one of those typical “guy things”, I’ve come to realize that most males wouldn’t appreciate it if a female challenged his skills or even his knowledge.

So what is it about the male section of our society? Are they jealous? Are they sexist?

On our faces, most men behave extremely sweetly and also pretend to be impressed when we say we follow football. Walk away and one will find them cracking slightly offensive jokes at our expense, which vary right from supporting a particular team to sporting a team’s jersey, and even about the offside rule.

Women have had to put up with some very patronising behaviour at times in the still fairly masculine world of football. We all recall Sky Sports dinosaurs Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ jibes at a female Assistant Referee – ’Do us a favour love, do you even know the off side rule? When male officials get it wrong, it’s because they’re inept. When female officials get it wrong, apparently it’s because they’re women?

Anyone with two eyes, a marginally functioning brain, and enough female friends, knows that women are a significant part of the football community worldwide, and now in India as well.

Women, and I’m speaking on behalf of all the female football fans I know, don’t watch or support a football team just because they have �?cute players’. Also, supporting a team just because they’re winning trophies isn’t something a woman would do. But having said that, I won’t deny that there are a certain number of ‘plastic fans’. Those numbers, however, would be considerably less if compared with men, so the �?plasticity’ of fans is common across both sexes.

In my opinion, there are three main types of female football fans:

1. The ones who love the game, and everything that has got anything to do with it. They’re the ones who won’t miss a single game for anything in the world, and even if they can’t watch the game live at the stadium, they make sure they watch it on TV.

2. The second type also love their team, however, they’re a little less dedicated (if I may say so). They’ll buy their team’s jerseys, support their team during their ups and downs and keep abreast with everything that’s happening. This section of fans is rather important for they’re the ones blowing up Twitter and Facebook, demanding that games get streamed if not aired live on TV; they’re constantly buzzing on Social Media when it comes to their team and football in general.

3. And the third type are the ones who’ve jumped on the bandwagon – just because everyone else was doing it! They know who the players are and they definitely know who the hottest players are, but ask them what was their team’s �?back four’ during a particular game, and they won’t have a clue.

Too many times on Social Media and in person, female fans have been labeled “glory hunters” or “plastic fans”, which is rather uncalled for. I have to say this to all men, with due respect, that women are definitely aware of the “Offside Rule”, thank you very much. We cry when our team loses, cry harder when we win. A player’s injury affects us more than our own and it’s the end of the world when someone leaves our club.

We rant on Twitter not because we want to attract followers, but because it hurts us when our team doesn’t perform well. I don’t see a reason why people think we’re trying to boast about our knowledge of the game when we tweet about it; we just love the sport!

Growing up in India and breaking all the rules when I fell in love with Thierry Henry was the defining moment in my life. Football took precedence over everything else – even friends.

What was the case with me 12 years ago stands true until date. If my team has a bad game, my entire week is ruined. And if my team has a brilliant game, it goes without saying that I’d have a brilliant week.

Football is directly responsible for my state of mind. But no matter how much ever I love my club, and no matter how many tears I shed – not to mention the very colourful language I use during a game – I’ll always have that question mark on my loyalty. Speaking from experience, and I’m sure most girls’ experience, it doesn’t take long for a guy to point fingers and spew venom.

It’s really sad some of things women are told by various people, just because they love a sport.

“You’re fat and that jersey looks ugly on you.”

So if I’m not “sexy” or “hot”, I’m not supposed to wear my team’s jersey? Is that what all female football fans are perceived as? Sex symbols?

Just recently, I received a not-so-comforting tweet – “You’re a girl. What do you understand about football? Go make me a sandwich, *****!”

I laughed it off then, but somewhere inside it stung. Why can’t I have a place for myself in those hundreds and thousands of football fans? Do I need to prove my knowledge and love for the game at every single step?

A Nike campaign comes to mind at this juncture. Sometime during 2010, they released a new video – “Paving The Way” – which had young boys thanking the men’s national team for inspiring them, and surprisingly, it didn’t feature a single girl. The advertisement was subject to some criticism for the same, but the male community was quiet at large.

Just because I am a woman and I live in India, doesn’t mean my place is in the kitchen or inside the four walls of the house. We’re independent and strong women, and if we love a sport, as much as men can ever think of doing (or even more), it’s high time that they made space for us in their world.

We may be emotional goats, but we’re loyal football fans; and at the end of the day, that is exactly what matters.

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