Football is well regarded for its egalitarian character; the game can be enjoyed whether you’re rich or poor, young or old. But what if you’re a woman? Well, that’s where your football aficionado status comes into disrepute. As the World Cup heats up, male ignorance becomes more and more blatant as they fail to comfortably accept that women can like the sport just as much as them, if not more.
On hearing your love for the sport, what follows from a man’s mouth is the accusation that you only like football because the players are easy on the eyes. It’s tempting to concede this point at first, but then you remember that for every Adonis on the pitch there are about five Quasimodos. You point this out to him. You are then assaulted with a barrage of questions about the banal details of the team you support, by a man who feels the incessant need to challenge women’s knowledge of the sport. Oh, you like Thiago Silva? What’s his blood type then? Can you even assess his risk for male pattern baldness? You stun him by listing all this info and more; you had already collected these innocuous details for your Punnett Square in the hopes of guessing what your future children might look like.
You know at least the last ten years of match history for your favourite teams, including friendlies, and you know the clubs of each player. It becomes clear you have the high ground of football knowledge when you start telling him about details that are completely new and exciting to him but painfully ordinary to you. He sighs in resignation, just like Germany’s squad after their loss to our regional neighbours Mexico.
Men could do well to recognise that being a woman does not preclude our enjoyment of the World Cup. Of course, there are wagonists, but these come in all genders. Football is first and foremost about the beauty inherent in the feats of human strength and resilience these men perform with their bodies and minds It’s about the passion that comes alive in the crowd, the national pride and the novel ways the masses manage to express it. It’s the volatility and sheer unpredictability of the game that leaves you hooting and hollering at your screen. It’s about the juxtaposition of sport and geopolitics, like how legacies of empire mean that a France vs. Algeria match won’t play out smoothly. You don’t have to be a man to understand the enduring appeal of this beautiful game.