By Morenike Taire
It’s another world cup, and this time, it’s in Brazil, the street party capital of the world except now they are pretending not to be in party mode (what with all the demonstrations and all). It can only be expected that there will be big hair, pouty lips and miles of flesh in abundance. Not only are Brazillian women famed to be some of the world’s most beautiful, they are also the women who have had the most plastic surgeries. As the football goes on, a million and one side shows carry on simultaneously, mostly involving dance, cavorting and ‘behind-the-scenes’ action.
Traditionally, the number one soccer event in the world opens with sexy- the last time, the globe swooned not only to the lyrics but to the provocative swaying of Shakira‘s Waka Waka in South Africa 2010. With more than 683 million views as of June 2014, she was the popular choice for this year’s opening, but JLo and Pitbull supplied the sexy fix just as much with the not-so-popular We are One in an opening that has been mostly described as ‘disastrous’.
Running, kicking, sweating, diving and disrobing on those screens will be an almost overwhelming number of incredibly attractive men with foreign accents and soccer-level thighs in the best physical shape of their lives. For female fans, this is both a blessing and a curse.
Female fans of men’s soccer put up with a lot of crap to watch the sport they love, much of it from male fans — accusations that they’re only into it because their boyfriend is, that they don’t really understand the intricacies of the game, that they have no business occupying space at viewing centers or at games that real, male fans could be occupying. They’re catcalled, derided, and quizzed as though they don’t belong there.
Basically because men’s football is so very male-dominated, female fans tend to be very wary of doing anything that makes them stand out as “female” or “feminine”. They will wear trousers to games, not skirts; flat shoes, not heels; they won’t wear too much make-up; they don’t want to be accused of being there to look at the boys, not to watch the football. It’s almost as if this gendered/sexualised element of watching football would detract from how much you enjoy the sport.
Having spoken to more than a dozen female fans, the conclusion is that with our without fake eyelashes and push-up bras, female fans are authentic. Some grew up playing it with the boys, some fell in love with the sport alongside a parent, others became fans after getting swept up in World Cup fever as adults. They’re in it to see the national team spirit, to support the best athletes in the world, to see the usual configuration of professional European leagues completely upended and reordered on the world stage.
Advertisers pay scant attention to the statistics, and at their peril. 2011 statistics show that though soccer is not the most beloved sport for the ladies in the United States, African and English women love to watch the beautiful game far more than any other sport. Women have been a big part of the viewing audience for the better part of the last decade, at least for the major events. According to Forbes, 5.2 million women tuned into the Women’s World Cup final between Japan and the U.S. (compared to 8.3 million men), making it the fifth-most viewed sporting event among females. Well informed sports retail concerns both online and in-store have the good sense to create and offer distinct female lines. Now, female fans are doing more than cheering and providing comfort: they have genuine interest in the game, just for the love of it.
Nigerian women like to watch Nigerians play in the World Cup, period! The one month of the World Cup should be a time of bonding of the sexes.