‘Beautiful game’ not only for boys

Gloria: Sports, with all its unifying power, should be an inclusive space in which gender does not dictate fandom.

Lass overcomes gender bias to continue passion for football

AS a female football fan, my journey has been filled with highs and lows – victories on the field and battles off it.

The roots of my love for football were planted watching football and kicking the ball around with my dad as a little girl.

The strategies, the cheers and the thrill of a well-executed goal created in me an unbreakable bond to the sport.

As a tertiary student now, I am an active member of my university’s football club, even taking part in a 9v9 mixed football tournament last year with teams consisting of boys and girls.

However, early on as a girl in the world of football fandom, I soon realised that my enthusiasm came with unexpected challenges.

Boys, often the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of the football culture, made it clear to me that this wasn’t a space meant for girls.

As an avid Arsenal fan, my love for the club became a target for mockery. Boys would belittle my support for it, claiming that I was only drawn to the team because of the Invincibles in the 2003-2004 season and the good looks of the players.

The echoes of “name 10 players” and “explain the offside rule” became recurring challenges that questioned not only my knowledge of the sport, but also my right to be part of the football community as a girl.

My joy in the game would be overshadowed by the fear of being picked on or excluded.

The prevailing perception that football was exclusively a “boys’ sport” seemed to echo louder than the cheers in the stadium.

Yet, rather than deterring me, each disparaging comment and every exclusionary gesture fuelled my determination to challenge the status quo.

Winning debates or showing a deeper understanding than the boys would upset them instead of leaving them impressed.

It made me question why my love for the sport had to be measured by their standards and be bound by gender norms.

Isn’t the very essence of football rooted in passion, teamwork, qualities and skills that transcend gender?

Reflecting on these experiences, I realised my journey as a female football fan isn’t about personal triumphs. It is a narrative that echoes a broader societal issue.

Sports, with all its unifying power, should be an inclusive space in which gender does not dictate fandom.

Amid these challenges, I found inspiration and encouragement by looking up to female football commentators like Michelle Lee.

Her presence acknowledges that a female perspective has value in the world of men’s football. Watching her break the bias by providing insightful analysis gave me a sense of empowerment and validation.

The presence of women in the male-dominated realm of football commentary became a light of hope. It reinforced the idea that female football fans could be both passionate supporters and influential figures in the sport.

In a world where gender stereotypes persist, being a female football fan is an act of defiance.

Through my experiences, I’ve learnt that passion knows no bounds of gender and that the love for football is a flame that burns brightly within the hearts of many. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire fellow female football fans to embrace their love for the game and encourage a shift towards a more inclusive and accepting football culture.

Together, we can rewrite the narrative and ensure that football truly becomes a sport for everyone regardless of gender.

This will not just be a win for female football fans like me, but a victory for the entire sports world. Let’s kick down the barriers and make football an inclusive realm for everyone to enjoy.

Gloria, 23, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For updates on the BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

With the theme of the article in mind, carry out the following English language activities.

1. What are some interests or fields that are often subjected to gender stereotypes? Look in today’s newspaper for examples. Then, share your findings with friends and express your views on the matter.

2. Based on one of the interests or fields you have identified, create a poster or a comic strip depicting at least one way society can break gender stereotypes in that particular interest or field. When you are done, display your creative work in class.

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email starnie@thestar.com.my.

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BRATs , Star-NiE , football , sports , gender bias


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