BEIRUT: When she arrives at the bar, she’s surprised to learn there’s a game on. Some minutes after kickoff she leans over to inquire which team is which. But by the time of the first shot on goal, she is screaming at the screen and chastising the players, utterly caught in the trawl of the unfolding action.
And while she’s buying into the role of the vocally expert, barstool football fan, she’s also clearly bothering another female in the establishment. The latter sits glowering at her, visibly perturbed. “Ugh, look at her,” she says. “She didn’t even know the game was on 10 minutes ago.”
Major football tournaments ignite Lebanon, but while being a male football supporter is almost a forgone conclusion, genuine female fans remain few and far between. Yet, dozens of damsels are appearing in bars across Beirut as Euro 2012 progresses. They come in several varieties, some more common than others, but after a week of observation the main species appear to be: the sudden expert (showcased above); the utterly bored; the vocally bored; the converted girlfriend; and the sincere supporter.
The first was readily on display in an East Beirut bar Wednesday night.
Picture this: a table before a big screen, three couples seated on one side of it – boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. The boys are enthralled in the Netherlands vs. Germany game; the girls’ eyes are glazed over, one rests her chin on her hand and yawns. Robin van Persie’s effort 17 minutes from fulltime rouses them momentarily, but they promptly fall back into their stupor until they are finally released from what has clearly been an endurance test.
Although as dull as dishwater, and a detriment to the building of a great Euro-watching atmosphere, these are certainly not the worst variety of women to have in your football-viewing audience.
Sami-Joe Abboud, who chose to support Spain during the 2010 World Cup because she speaks Spanish and likes the country, says the worst person to watch a game with is “a girl complaining about our interest in the game.”
They say footballers run approximately 13.5 kilometers per game; during a 90-minute showdown girls can cover metaphorically similar distances in their conversations.
Some may not be as vocal about their boredom specifically, but are nonetheless excessively garrulous, as one German fan keen to watch her nation play learned Wednesday night.
We’ve talked about everything from men to furniture purchases, she said, adding that she finally realized how frustrated some of her male friends become as less interested parties try to distract them with banter during games.
However, sometimes female fans are born of an “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude.
“Girls choose their teams after their guys,” says Nadine Matar, a longtime Holland fan, during halftime Wednesday night.
Similarly, Lara Fahs, who has supported Real Madrid since 1998 and the Spain national team since 2006, argues that in her circle there are girls that are “real football fans” but says most have developed “due to the fact that their father or brother or boyfriend is a football fanatic.”
But there are definitely others, Fahs says, who only watch the games “because their boyfriends dragged them or because it’s a group outing and they want to join – definitely not because they want to watch the game.”
Occasionally a female fan flies in the face of her partner’s allegiance.
Eliane Saade’s husband is Lebanese-German, but although she was nestled in the corner of a Mar Mikhail bar Wednesday night, she is an avid Italy supporter.
Admitting that she does feel some moral guilt for abandoning her husband’s country, which is also her current country of residence, Saade says that she just feels closer to Italy.
Who’s her favorite player? She doesn’t have to think to answer: “[Alessandro] Del Piero.” Why? “He’s beautiful!” And then, upon reflection, she adds: “He plays well also.”
Female football watchers of all species are generally capable of naming at least one player on their team of choice – usually the cutest. Sincere supporters tend to be more discerning.
Fahs, for instance, is incapable of giving a short answer when queried on the subject, and she certainly doesn’t rank her selection of great players by aesthetic appeal.
“[I] Don’t have ‘a favorite’ but couple of ones: Cristiano Ronaldo [Portugal], Mezut Ozil [Germany], Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez and Torres [Spain], Ashley Cole [England], Peter Cech [Czech Republic and Chelsea’s Goalkeeper], Benzema [France], Shevchenko [Ukraine]. Why?! They are either players playing in La Liga and specifically in Real Madrid or great players playing in other leagues.”
And perhaps somewhat ironically, for a supporter like Fahs who has spent a decade and a half following Spanish football, the worst species of all to watch games with isn’t female – it’s male:
“There are some fans [all of them men, needless to mention] who start screaming as if they were in the stadium, cursing and drinking. And the worst ‘species’ of them all is those who want to comment or analyze every move, pass [and] shot, and to top it are supporting the opponent team ... Those I can’t bear at all,” she says.