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Confessions of a woman World Cup football fan

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Of balancing work, life, child and late-night game schedules

The FIFA World Cup tournament that happens every four years is the only sport I follow — that’s a big confession I wish to make at the outset. I do not follow club football and have no idea about the celebrity players or the prices they command for a Manchester United or a Liverpool. My love for the gentleman’s game lasted till Sourav Ganguly was playing, including IPL. I keep track of big tennis and chess tournaments to the extent that I am up-to-date on my current affairs. That says a lot about my interest in sports and my association with it.

However, every four years I get metamorphosed into an ardent football fan for the one month that tournament lasts. My journey starts with a colourful fixture, a large newspaper cutting going up on my bedroom wall. Throughout the event, I refer to this piece of paper as I write little notes around it — who won, who lost; mark a cross on teams that got knocked out, and so on.

Once the tournament kicks off, my daily routine changes. I rush home early from work to make sure the dinner is served and my eight-year-old is put to bed latest by 9.30 p.m. I then settle in my couch with a blanket, TV remote and my phone within my reach and feel like a reigning queen. With the headset on, I can listen to the commentary at whatever sound levels I want without disturbing the other occupants of the bedroom who are asleep — my husband and daughter.

Life changes in other ways too when the World Cup is on. This is the only time I turn to the sports pages each morning trying to read everything covered on the game. Online browsing is mostly restricted to the FIFA website or sites that throw up football statistics. Before a match, I am always ready with some trivia like history of how many times the two teams have met in the past and the winning statistics. When the match gets a little boring, I grab my phone and start googling for silly things.

One such search led me to some embarrassing websites as I was trying to google the images of Sergio Romero, the Argentina goalkeeper who looked like a friend. Discovered he was married to a hot model called Eliana Guercio. One day, after watching Messi play and observing how down-to-earth and bashful he appeared in front of some of the other flamboyant players, I suddenly had the urge to find out if Messi had ever waved a T-shirt after a win and to my surprise — I found only one.

On the day of the Uruguay vs. Italy match that saw the infamous ‘Suarez bite’, I was reading up on Uruguay and found that a quarter of the population of Uruguay is of Italian descent, and as per their 2011 census about 90.7 per cent of the population claim European descent.

Late-night games were a good time to exchange notes and post updates on social network debating prediction that often led to long virtual discussion threads. Football fans are emotional, which means they fight, argue and praise pretty easily, oblivious of the fact that a large majority of their friends do not follow the game like a religion and they must hate to see these posts in their newsfeed next morning.

I had a realisation of this kind, though late in the day, when I went to pick up my daughter from school one day. I encountered moms who either gave me strange looks — may be because I was looking too groggy and unkempt due to my late nights — or greeted me with “how do you manage to watch the matches so late” or “oh, I love reading your football match updates every morning to know who won last night’s match”.

At work, our conference calls during the month often started with “Did you watch the game last night?”, “Who were you rooting for?” and so on. We soon had a network of football followers and a whatsapp group called WC Fan Club was born with my colleagues from India, Dubai, Jakarta and Johannesburg. All of us in different time zones were able to connect during the matches for great banter.

This year I observed a growing female fan following of the game among my social circle. At the start of the tournament, I saw some stereotypical, sexist jokes conveying the idea that it is a man’s game and that wives should leave them alone. I was planning to counter these jokes with pictures of Chancellor Angela Merkel cheering for Germany but didn’t have to — these jokes disappeared quickly.

As they say, all good things must come to an end. The World Cup season came to a close ending my one month of excitement when I looked forward to each night with great anticipation. I endured an increase in drowsy mornings and domestic disputes for the sake of a fantastic sport that is full of vigour and emotion. After all, in which other game do you see tattooed, grown-up men crying like babies in the field. Viva La Football.

>anmol.sherpa@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 5:52:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/confessions-of-a-woman-world-cup-football-fan/article6229348.ece

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