Women should be encouraged to love football more

BY CHARITY UZOAGBA

THE pleasure men derive from watching football games (especially live matches) is still incomprehensible to most women. Estimating the ratio of men to women in a viewing centre, a crop of 30 men might have only one or two women sighted while viewing a live match with them and in most cases, there may be none in the circle.

  The game of football is the most popular sport in the world. Also known as soccer in some part of the world, it comprises two opposing teams of 11 players defending goals at both sides of the post, with a referee that officiates and regulates the 90- minute game, which is usually divided into 45minutes for first half and another 45 minutes for completion of second half.

  Is watching football a masculine activity? Why do men show great interest and love for football? Are there women who show similar interest in viewing football? And why are women less attracted unlike the men? All these are questions that might be yearning for answers in a curious person’s heart. 

  It is only the eyes that enjoy football scenes that can tell the joy and happiness that surround it. A man can halt eating his dinner or can even freeze his schedules just to squeeze out time to watch a live football. Can a woman go to the extent of altering daily schedules like cooking, taking care of children, home and other domestic chores? Can a woman freely do that like men? It is debatable.

 In home settings, most women are seen glued to watching television series and drama like Zee-world (popular Bollywood series; Mehek), African Magic, Rok Television and other channels for programmes that have emotional feelings. But that is not the case with watching football.

In this part of the world, the society shapes watching football as more of a man’s activity. That notwithstanding,  there are still  few women who like  watching these great sport, but obviously these women who have interest in watching football just like men still  don’t measure  to the degree of interest exhibited  by men. Men display a lot of passion and love for their clubs. Some start and end greeting with a football topic. That is to show the degree of interest in watching football.

Most women that view football at home or in viewing centers watch football not because of their passion or interest about the field event but because they have a course to fulfill. They may have accompanied their friends to watch or by chance, glanced at the television while passing their  living room to the kitchen or got  attracted by laud comments and cheers from viewers. 

Such cases don’t usually arise during weekend matches by various clubs but rather, during FIFA world cup and AFCON competitions, although some women do it probably for personal interests.

There are national teams like Super Eagles of Nigeria, Bafana Bafana of South Africa, Black Stars of Ghana, Red devils of Belgium, Three Lions of England, Desert Fox of Algeria, Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, Pharoh of Egypt, Black Panther of Gabon, of Senegal, Samba Boys of Brazil,  Orange Boys of Nitherlands, etc.

Narrowing it down to Nigeria, we have various football clubs in different states like Rangers club of Enugu, Enyimba Club of Aba, Ifeanyi Uba FC of Anambra, Sunshine of Akure, Heartland of Owerri, among others, while in English  Premier League (EPL), some of the clubs are privately owned, state owned or company owned football clubs;

namely Manchester United, Arsenal,  Tottenham, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool,  Chelsea, Paris, Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, Atlanta, Napoli, Genk, Salzburg, Bayern, Olympiacos,

 CrvenaZvezda, Ajax, Losc, Valencia, SlaviaPraha, Inter, Dortmund, LokomotivMoskva, Leverkusen, Atiletico, Zenit, Benfica Lion, etc and almost all these EPL football clubs have their female teams, which are rarely known.

  Recently, around October 9, 2019, Iran authorities, following the pressure from human right groups and  FIFA lifted the restriction  on women to watch football in stadia for the first time since over 40 years in order to watch qualifying match between the national team for Iran and Cambodia on  October 10, 2019, in Tehran. FIFA has shown its concern towards inclusion of women to watching and more is expected of them and other sports organisations in order to increase women involvement in football.

  In Nigeria, women football clubs are also hardly talked about. It is very clear that many people are not aware of its existence since it started around 1978, over 40 years ago, under the umbrella of Nigeria Female Football Organising Association (NFFOA), later renamed Nigeria Female Football Proprietors Association (NFFPA) in 1979.

 Before the advent of NFFPA, there are other clubs like Jegede babes, Ufuoma babes, Larry Angels among others. The apex of female division of NFFPA  is Nigeria Women Premier League which is followed by the Nigeria Women Pro-League and the Women Amateur Football Association (WAFU) league, the trio arranged in ascending order. 

Some of the clubs under Nigeria Premier League categories includes: Capital City  Doves FC; Abuja, Pelican Stars; Cross River, Abia Angels FC, Osun Babes FC, Delta Queen FC, Taraba Queens FC, COD United Ladies FC; Lagos, Nasarawa Amazon FC, Sunshine Queens FC; Ondo, River Angels FC, Conference Queens; Kogi, Bayelsa Queens FC,  Tokas Queen FC; Lagos, FC Rob Queens; Lagos,

Martin White Doves FC, Adamawa Queens FC, Taraba Queens FC, Edo Queens FC and Ibom Angels FC, while Nigeria Women Pro-League  teams are State House Queens; Abuja, Invincible Angels; Benue, Beautiful Tour Angels; Abuja, Sa’ adatuKolo Amazons; Minna, Cerezo Queens; Kwara, Heartland Queens; Imo, Police Machine and Royaltoms  Queens.

Not forgetting the Yaba Queen of Yaba, Lagos, Olugole Flamming Queens  of Ibadan, Oyo, Jagunmdu Queens of Idiroko, Ogun, Adex Queens of Ikotun, Lagos, FC Phoenix; Apapa, and Nana Babes of Ore, Ondo, that comprise of Women Amateur Football Association teams.

  Despite the rise in women’s participation in football over the years and springing up of some female clubs at both national and international levels, women appear to be still bored by the sport.
The aforementioned female football clubs and women who are in football sport like Asisat Lamina Oshoala, Ngozi Okobi, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega, Rita Chikwelu, Onome Ebi, among host of Nigeria female football players ought to increase women’s interest because they are same sex.

However, research still shows decline in number of women that watch football, even in other sporting activities like boxing, wrestling, basket ball, racing, and etc; whereas the reverse should have been the case.  A sports analyst once commented that fans of both sex prefer watching games by men, noting also that women appear more in games of opposite sex than same sex.

  Some women aired their views on why they are less attracted to watch football. One of them, Ezinne Onah, explained that what scares her most is the kind of procured injuries they sustain through the way they attack each other. Not only that, “it is somehow violent. People sometimes die from it; serious bruises here and there. I don’t like seeing the scene.”

  A business woman, Ifechukwu Odogwu, who was seen frowning her face where some group of men were discussing about the last football they watched and making remarks concerning their team that won and lost said, “Personally, watching football is like a suicide to me. I don’t see anything entertaining or interesting about it.

If I have any interesting movie to watch at home, I don’t mind putting the television on child lock and hide the remote control to where nobody can find it during those matches. I can’t stand chances of missing any of my favorite series to listen to those voices of football commentators talking about the game. It’s like noise to my ears; talk more of sitting to watch it. More so, I’ll rather use that time for house chores, bath my children so as to sleep and wake up on time,” she lamented.

  Blessing Onyemowo Oyetade, a young mother revealed that she grew up disliking the game. “I had no interest because I never had reason to like football,   since my father always frowns at my brothers playing the game as kids. It was like a waste of time for me and I saw it as game for men, but now that I’m married, I’m a die-hard Liverpool fan. I don’t have a choice; I was inducted to the league of football lovers by my husband (smiles).

  From psychological point of view, Chinonye Odiri posited that some women who love watching football are not strongly attached to it like the men. According to her, women are more inclined to watching romantic movies and telemundo than rigorous exercises like football and other sports. She stated, “Since more men play football, most women see watching football as a masculine activity.

If there are sponsorships for women’s league, more academies for female footballers, more media presence of women football clubs and society encouragement, women would want to participate in playing ball. I believe it will increase and draw more attention to the number of people who think that watching is only meant for the men.

  On her part, Adaeze Ifenkili, a football commentator and a Chelsea supporter has a divergent view. She likes and sees football as a means of entertainment. “I like the thrill and suspense that comes with viewing football matches. I watch football matches as often as possible any time there is a match. The last time that I watched football was last Saturday.

Chelsea played Crystal Palace 2 goals to nothing. Most times, I’m more interested in watching Chelsea and any Nigerian matches. I don’t like missing out in any of these two. I do create time to be on the screen whenever they are playing and if there is any other match.

I love watching football on my own accord or when I’m with my family (brother) and friends and their team are playing, not necessarily when Chelsea plays. I  encourage and support them, and of course, when my team is playing, I will support my team. The fascination, suspense, energy and joy it gives are alluring,” she buttressed.

  While responding on why women have less interest in the game, Ifenkili said that most women see football as a boring game because they don’t understand what happens in the field, and that some perceive football matches as more of a masculine activity than of feminine.

  Further speaking, she opined that to draw the attention of women towards watching football games and increase their participation, more attention should be given to female clubs and viewers also by football organisations and society at large to make it more interesting.

”Watching football is considered as a man’s thing. People mostly give attention to male football team. than female football team.

That is very obvious. I’m not able to recall someone saying, let me go and watch any Nigeria female football team, Chelsea football team or Manchester United female team that are playing, but when a male match is on, you will see a serious engagement. You can’t compare the turn up when men are playing to when women are playing.

  It makes it look like football is just meant for the men. I think to increase women participation to this great sport just like men, there is need to start on time to give support and  encouragement like incentives or maybe putting a “Bet” for viewers  or for example, if you watch 10 matches, you get paid or get a reward. There are rewards like that, just that it’s not like that for female football viewing,” she stated. 

  A sport analyst and presenter at UNIZIK 94.1FM,  Chivendo Martins said that gender discretion, unfavorable environment , media, lack of  interest, sponsorship and finance have in one way or the other contributed in making women not to be active like men in watching football viewing centers
Chivendo, in her suggestion on how to increase interest of women in watching football said,

“I think a good number of females will come out to watch football if there is a place females go to watch ball.

Sports organisations, on their part, should give women more attention and publicity; create more awareness during their matches. You could see that during the FIFA Male World Cup, a lot of people were involved unlike the female world cup.

 Most people don’t know about the female world cup especially here in Nigeria. During my radio updates, a lot of people just heard it for the first time. They don’t know that there is a world cup for the females too. Even the aspect of sponsorship was not as it was for the male. Football is a business of its own.   

 That is why the kind of advertisement and sponsorship that they are giving to male teams is not the same with the female team. In England, their female teams are very well known. The media have slacked a little bit in including both genders in their sport programmes, like the super 4 that is going on in Lagos. Many don’t know about it.

Talking from experience, most times, women know a lot of things about the male football sport; they really don’t have knowledge on the female foot ball. If the media don’t publicise it, people will not get to know what is happening. My advice to media is to include both genders in their programme and at same rate.

  Some will argue that since sport is entertainment, it is expected to bring income or at least attract endorsement deals well enough for the media to acknowledge. And maybe women football has not been able to do that.

According to a female wrestler, Ronda Rosey, while answering a journalist on why women get less pay in wrestling, she said, ”well as for me, I get equal or similar pay with my male colleagues because I attract people to the business. People buy a lot of my fight tickets”.

  Judging from this angle, can female football attract a lot of crowd just like that of the male? The answer to that question is yes, but it will attract a lot of male viewers than females simply because men are more sport inclined than women.

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