Shrijana is a Student Staff Member at the Women’s Center. She is a co-facilitator of Women of Color Coalition and leading the Telling Our Stories Project.
Growing up in a family who used to stay up until 4 AM watching football (soccer), I can say with true honesty that passion for this sport has run through my blood from a very young age. My dad grew up as an F.C. Barcelona (Futbol Club Barcelona) fan and a football fan in general from watching the World Cup to other league games such as La Liga, the English Premier League, and the Bundesliga.
Watching football was the first activity that opened up and strengthened my bond with my dad.
As an only child in a brown family household, I often felt the need to be both the son and daughter to my parents. I became my dad’s best friend through football, my mom used to call us “Barcelona saathiharu” in Nepali which translates to “Barcelona friends” in English. My love for F.C. Barcelona inspired me to pursue learning Spanish in high school and college. The greatest attribute of this bond with my dad was that my gender never played a role in this situation. I never felt less in situations while watching games with him. He taught me a lot and listened to my opinions and rants as well. We shared victories, defeats, along with emotions of sadness, pride, and happiness. Gender never posed as a question between me and my dad.
I did not need to be his son to be his football buddy.
Luckily, this notion continued throughout my life. Even in middle school and high school, I would talk to my male friends with equal respect for football. They would listen to my points and believe me when I stated I was a football fan and F.C. Barcelona was my favorite team. However, this experience was short lived when I arrived at college.
“Are you a true soccer fan?”
“Name one player on the team besides Messi.”
“Who is the striker for Barcelona?”
These were questions that were asked of me by a male friend while I was wearing my F.C. Barcelona cap. I felt hurt that I was asked these series of questions because I was not believed to be a loyal sports fan. If I was a man, I would not be quizzed for my passion for football or any other sport. Why do I have to answer to a male to be validated for my interests? Although I do not blame my friend for asking these questions, it made me realize how women are delegitimized not just in sporting competitions but as audiences of sports as well.
Just like this meme expresses the sentiment I experienced, girls all over are not believed for watching sports. Yes, there might be fake fans among the mix just like fake fans among men; however, asking a girl question after question to find a fault in her passion does not take away her right of liking sports. And yes, it is also possible for a girl to know more about sports than a guy.
As I researched more about this topic on the internet (because where else would I found solidarity and angry rants) and talked to my friends, I found out that my feelings were not alone. There were multiple blogs and articles published about how I felt. Reading more on this topic made me revisit something else that someone had also previously said to me. I was once accused of being a sports fan to impress boys or get them to like me. News flash, the world does not revolve around men. Women are not doing anything for the approval of men whether to impress them or win them over. I started watching football before I even talked to a boy. Again, people assigning the need for validation from men to women here continues.
There are still men out there in all age groups that believe a woman is incapable of having a passionate in-depth conversation about sports, football in my case. I may be seen as an “irrational feminist” especially for those men (or even my male friends reading this). Conversely, several girls and women would agree that they have felt discriminated against because they do not feel respected when discussing or watching sports.
My encounters will not stop me from voicing my opinions on football or my passion for it. I will be loud, I will root for my team, and I will debate those fans who think F.C. Barcelona is not the best team. This blog is not to discount the boys and men who respect women’s opinions on sports like my dad or other male friends who I have shared my passion with. I hope those boys and men out there who were unaware of this issue or have realized they are at fault for acting in this ignorant way serve as better allies for us female sports fans.
Lastly, to those boys who feel pressured to watch sports to fit in, you do not need the approval of society or others. Do not watch it if you are not into it. Being a sports fan should not be gendered. It is about who you are and what you like.
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