The Premiership football season feels like a Godsend to football obsessed men while for the sisters (read wives and girlfriends), the thought of it is an absolute nightmare.
This is when women lose their guys to nonstop game-watching and sports betting. To some of these women, a football season could also spell the end of a relationship. They feel angry, frustrated, resentful, confused and isolated.
When it comes to football, it is not farfetched to say that most women secretly (sometimes even openly) wish it simply did not exist. “Where’s the fun in watching grown men running after a ball?” asks Sheila Kaitesi, a 26-year-old mother of one whose baby daddy is a Manchester United fan.
“Every time there is a match, John is restless. It’s almost as if he has a job interview at the White House. He literally counts down minutes to the game. I have never understood it,” Sheila adds about her man.
Like Sheila, many women have been left troubled about the strange relationship between their men and football. It’s not every day that a man watches a game, the rematch and the highlights and then goes on to talk about it with friends and get into heated arguments like they never watched it.
“If I had a dime for every time my boyfriend nearly gave me a heart attack, because his team scored or nearly scored, I’d be rolling in money on some king sized bed in a 7 star hotel in Hawaii! I understand the need to celebrate a victory but must they frighten you so? My boyfriend is into other sports too, like basketball and boxing, but not once have I heard that sound he makes during football elsewhere. It is special,” says Patricia Kamikazi, an advertising agent living in Kimironko.
How did they choose their teams?
“One thing that has always baffled me is how they choose the teams they support. My boyfriend is a Chelsea fan but when I asked him why he chose Chelsea, he said it is because it is the team he wants. That didn’t help much,” adds Kamikazi.
Lucas Kaitare, a 33-year-old Liverpool fan says that to some, football can be more than a sport or recreation. Several people have different reasons for supporting the teams they support. “Personally, we had the privilege of owning a black and white TV. There was a black player on the team called John Barnes and the team’s jersey had the word Candy. It was the most successful team then. That’s how I started supporting it.”
He adds, “Others support teams because of other reasons like family or partners or peers. Football is a feeling, culture or religion. You owe your allegiance to the team. It evolves around emotions and pride.”
Arsenal diehard, Bryan Kwizera talks about how he came to support his team. “It was back in 1996, I used to see these English Premier League (EPL) tables in newspapers every day. I later learnt from my uncle that they were actually EPL teams and the table showed their standings. So when I checked through the teams, most of them had names like Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and there was also Arsenal. When I checked out the meaning of Arsenal in the dictionary, they explained what an arsenal was with a diagram of a big gun which interested me since I was in love with guns at the time.”
Why is football so important?
Many women are baffled by the power football has over men. “I can’t count how many times my boyfriend has cancelled something we were supposed to do together to go watch football instead. It’s frustrating,” says Kamikazi.
So why is it so important? Kaitare says, “It depends. To some it’s a matter of life and death. It gives you a sense of pride.”
Kwizera on the other hand says, “It’s not important but it’s entertaining. For example, I love watching football anytime of the day; any league, kids or women.”
Is football our rival?
“One Sunday afternoon I painfully spent 90 minutes of my life watching Chelsea and Man City make fools out of themselves - all in the name of trying to impress a man I was dating. I am not one to believe in making sacrifices, therefore I cannot explain what I was doing seated in a sports bar watching soccer. First of all I hate noise so much it makes me irk, do not even get me started on how much I hate football but here I was listening to men screaming at the television every time one player pulled a move they did not approve of.”
“Just when it clocked 89 minutes and I thought I had survived this unpleasant moment, these losers mercilessly added two more minutes (injury time), and the men cheered like little children that had been offered candy- while I sat on my stool contemplating death. You absolutely have no idea how unsettling it gets when you are forced to sit in a bar full of football maniacs throwing their arms up in both protest and excitement.” This is an encounter Malaika Murungi, a 26-year-old student in South Africa, wishes she could erase.
Like her, some women have found themselves constantly competing with football for a man’s attention.
“During the soccer season, I become single again. Why? My boyfriend is never around, when he is, he has friends over and all they do is talk about the match, its disgusting!” says Claire Natukunda, a hair stylist downtown.
According to Kaitare, it is better when your partner isn’t interested in the sport at all. “You don’t want anyone to stress you when your team loses. You want time to yourself. It’s true it can strain relationships especially for fanatics. One may want to watch football and the other one Ice loves Coco. Who takes the remote? Surely that will create a strain.”
Alicia Banura, a single mother of one living in London, has a more outstanding experience with football. “This might sound like an exaggeration to some people but frankly, football has become a full blown rival in my relationship and it is traumatising me. This guy I just started seeing, perhaps a year now, literally loses his appetite for sex every time his team loses. Just because you lost one match doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get some! It’s a game for crying out loud.”
However, Kamikazi argues that the one thing women should refrain from telling a guy when his team has just lost is ‘it’s just a game’.
“Goodness, I once told John that, and he punched a wall. I asked him why he did that and he said it was because he couldn’t punch me!” Kaitesi recalls.
Isn’t it just a game?
“It’s more than a game. As I said before, its pride and emotions. So anything that affects our emotions and pride can’t be just a game. Football is like relationships but in football there are no break-ups. You support a team for life no matter the hard times your team goes through,” insists Kaitare.
Kwizera is more than willing to back that up and says, “Guys think you are trying to stop them from enjoying something they’re already addicted to. Guys don’t think women understand how interesting football is.”
Why the need to watch games, rematches and highlights?
“Like politics or other hot topics, it brings out ups and downs,” says Kaitare. “It’s like how a movie fanatic watches a movie several times. Football is no different. You might have missed the game. And some people have a phobia for seeing their team lose. So they watch highlights.”
According to Kwizera, “Highlights are good if your team won, you will want to look at the good times, like my best Arsenal game is the one of 1999 against Chelsea. I can watch it anytime any day. Also, watching the highlights of the games that happened over the weekend is important as you get to watch all the goals scored by other teams in the EPL, this gives you something to talk about with other football fanatics as you don’t want to be in the dark.”
And what about betting?
Another thing that baffles some women is sports betting. Although quite a number are slowly but surely getting hooked, the rest are curious to know. “Can’t they just sit, watch the game, win or lose and go home?” asks Kamikazi.
“Guys bet to make a quick buck (profit). When you bet your life’s savings and you see it gone within seconds some see death as the only option. It’s very addictive. There is what they call beginner’s luck. It makes you a slave to hope,” says Kaitare.
The women that love the game
Although it’s unfair for women who love football to be branded tomboys, most of them don’t seem to care when they are cheering their teams.
Female football lovers are actually more passionate about the game than guys. 29-year-old Claire Uwamahoro says she enjoys the preparation stages of the game, the atmosphere at the stadium, especially the crowd’s emotions towards the players.
“I am a soccer fan because it’s a beautiful game; it brings out the best in people. For me, the atmosphere in the stadium just makes my day. If you are a woman and you are looking for some fun, try going to the stadium with friends or hanging with people who understand the game. It’s as easy as getting a team you can support and then go crazy about football. The most interesting thing about football is when the side you’re supporting is winning and you are amongst fans of the team that is losing,” Uwamahoro says.
Uwamahoro adds that the pressure when your team is on the verge of losing is just thrilling. In fact it’s unexplainable; this is why some people almost kick the television set or make noise when a player misses a goal.
“I have been asked weird questions to prove that I enjoy football each time a guy finds me watching it. I believe these are the same questions that have been asked to several women out there who enjoy the game. For example, I’m frequently asked to name a few players from both teams. I always ask myself, does he think I’m so dumb that I’m can’t read the names on the player’s jersey? It’s so annoying and demeaning,” she complains.
She further states that even though female football fans are considered manly, they are still believed to be less knowledgeable about football because they are women.
“It’s extremely offensive for someone to question your intelligence just because of your gender and love for a sport that is dominated by men. Some have gone as far as saying that female football fans just go to watch the game for “optical nutrition” - they enjoy watching the player’s especially their muscular thighs and legs. Honestly speaking, these are all lousy misconceptions,” Uwamahoro emphasises.
The men who hate it
Much as soccer is commonly known as a ‘man’s thing’, you’ll be surprised at know how many men simply can’t stand the sport.
Gilbert Asiimwe is one of those men. “If only I could get a discount from DSTV for soccer channels. You have 22 grown men chasing around a leather ball while other fully grown men cry about it!”
27-year-old Peter Murenzi says almost everyone is a football fan, hence his need to be different. “I have realised that everyone, including children, are football lovers. I mean, there are more important things to do in life than sit around waiting for the football season and behaving rowdy during matches. People take football way more seriously than they should.”
He adds, “Also, it’s quite saddening how most of these guys know each and every single player in the clubs they support but hardly know their own local players. I have met quite a number. I will never accept to be a part of that.”
In his famous quote Liverpool’s immortalized manager Bill Shankly said, “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that”.