Football: ‘It’s a man’s game’

This idea that certain sports are tailored to certain audiences applies to quite a few different games, but since I’m a football fan, I thought I’d relate more specifically to this particular sport and my experience as a fan.

I’ve grown up around football since I can remember, and have travelled all around the country watching my beloved Chelsea F.C as well as playing for a local club for most of my younger years. So I would argue that I know a fair bit about the beautiful game. Now, those of you who have ever had the pleasure of attending a football match will probably agree that it is a very male based ‘day out’. There’s beer, pies, chanting, some aggression – a day were boys can be boys and release their frustration with the ‘lads’ watching their team. This isn’t to say that women spectators are unheard of, because of course you do see them dotted around in the crowd, some just out for the day with their significant other, friend or family, while there are some with a genuine passion for the game. I’d like to think I fell into the latter half of this description.

Get me in the crowd and I’m singing, cheering, even getting angry at certain decisions or performances. Yet I will very rarely, if ever, scream out and voice my opinion on say a ‘bad tackle’ or a ‘good finish’. Why? Because I can’t help but feel that as a girl, my opinion in football is less wanted and even invalid. If I’m in a group with male friends, I do feel more comfortable to state an opinion, but I am always very conscious of what I am saying, ensuring that I think before I speak. The boys who I’m friends with who are interested in the game have different levels of knowledge of the game – some know everything and anything, some know just the basics. I’d say I was somewhere in between. However, if those who know ‘the basics’ make a ridiculous statement, it’ll get laughed at and rejected, but generally he’ll still be a valued member of the ‘football conversation’. If I say something that everyone doesn’t necessarily agree with then I automatically lose my status as a respected member of the said conversation. In general, the boys’ opinion, whatever it may be, is regarded over mine, despite some of these opinions coming from lads who watch maybe two or three games a season…

This idea doesn’t apply to every boy of course, and I am just referring to my own experience. I admittedly do have some good conversations about the game with lads who know what they’re talking about. I find that those who aren’t maybe as closely acquainted with the game are the first to call me out if I say one thing that isn’t generally agreed upon. The fact is that football fans are all pretty subjective anyway. I’ll always put faith in my team, even if I know there’s a good chance that they may be facing a defeat, and that’s just the nature of the game. But I do wish that I could voice my opinions more openly without the fear of being looked at as a clueless fan based solely on my gender.

Going to watch Chelsea is probably one of my favourite things to do (despite their recent form…) and I do enjoy the whole male environment. I just hope that my voice can be heard as a valid football opinion, not as a girl who is thought to be there for a ‘fun day out’ and stare at the men in shorts. Granted, the players do look good on the field, but I can tell you when I’m watching a game, that’s the last thing I’m thinking about!

Josie Penfold




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