Football fever spreads across the gender divide


MALAYSIA is known to be a football-loving nation. Despite the many other sports played and telecast in this country, none of them (other than perhaps badminton) gets as much attention and causes as many sleepless nights as football.

Yes, football fever has hit Malaysian shores again. Every few years Malaysians go crazy – they ‘makan, minum dan tidur bola’ (eat, drink and sleep football) as one popular tagline goes.

This time it is the 2012 Uefa European Football Championship or Euro 2012, which kicked off just two days ago.

Already football fans are gathering at coffee shops and at the homes of their buddies where there are awesome entertainment systems and big screens to catch the matches co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland.

Only in Malaysia would one come across employees requesting flexibility in their working hours to catch the ‘important’ games.

Also only in Malaysia would one be able to experience the phenomenon of an increase in sick leave during a major global football event.

Over the years, it has become common for football fans to stagger (and to some extent, stumble) into their offices bleary-eyed after staying up all night watching football matches.

So common that even the Malaysian Employer’s Federation has predicted a drop in productivity in the corporate sector, not just among male employees, but also female employees!

And this drop in productivity is expected for the rest of the month. Euro 2012 matches will run until July 1, so expect bleary-eyed men and women turning up for work until then.

By the way, the Malaysian Trades Unions Congress (MTUC) president Mohd Khalid Atan actually said that fans should have planned their leave accordingly, since football tournaments such as Euro are once-in-four-years events.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand – football fever crossing the great wide gender divide.

Times are changing where football is concerned. Once upon a time, it was considered a man’s game.

Sure there were women football teams and fans, but they were a minority.

Once upon a time, wives and girlfriends had to pry the television remote control from the hands of their husbands and boyfriends. The results of wrestle-mania for control of the television during football seasons were never pleasant.

These days, womenfolk are also donning their favourite players’ jerseys and rattling off scores and statistics of qualifying teams.

Needless to say, some women’s knowledge of the international football scene can put a red-blooded man to shame.

We have women who host sports talk shows these days who are extremely good with commentaries on football matches. One fine example is Jay Menon, who co-hosts the programmes ‘Football Overload’ and ‘FourFourTwo’ with Jason Dacey and single-handedly hosts ‘Stadium Unplugged’.

Not taking into account Victoria Beckham (wife of David), there has also been an increase in international women celebrities who are football fans. Cameron Diaz is a hardcore supporter of Brentford FC, while Patsy Kensit is a fan of Tottenham Hotspurs.

Having women football fans around is not a bad thing. Really, at least, there is less resistance when it comes to the control of the television. And even if you and your spouse do not support the same team (as with many cases), it still beats having a nagging other half who does not support the man’s penchant for the game at all.

For diehard male football fans who are still single, do not assume that women are not interested in football.

The fact is women football fans can now outdo the men where the show of team support is concerned. The Eye has encountered women football fans who even match their accessories and nail art with the teams that they support!

Here’s to Euro 2012 and the women folk who do not hide the television controls during football season.