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How European Women Suffer through and Survive the Football Fever

There’s an epidemic raging on in Europe and it’s called football. And don’t tell the Europeans that it should be called soccer if you value your life. The European Football Championships are starting in Switzerland and Austria this weekend and the fever is soaring high despite the pouring rain. I have gone through this twice in the last 2 years. We were in living in host country Germany during the World Cup 2006 and now we are residing in Switzerland. It’s the same chaos all over again: gridlocks on the highway, overflowing public transport, -and don’t even think about parking spaces. For the next 4 weeks we will be eating, sleeping, and breathing football.

In the US, you have American football, baseball, and basketball to drive American men crazy. In Europe there is only football while other team sports are of minor importance. Football is almost like religion in Europe and European men are the most passionate of devotees.

In times like these, while European men are on an all-time high mood, women are on an all-time low. According to a European-wide survey by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in the UK, women suffer from lack of attention from their partners during the matches. 72% of Spanish respondents would prefer football to partnership interactions during the matches. 67% of Norwegians and 64% of Dutch and German fans feel the same. Not good for relationships and even more bad news for the falling EU birth rates.

Don’t get me wrong. There are also women who like to watch, even play football – and I am one of them – but we don’t seem to have this overwhelming passion that men have for the game. According to the SIRC survey, male football fans practice rituals before and during a game and wouldn’t think of shedding tears during a loss.

If you think I am exaggerating, here are some proofs that football has overtaken European life:

The football album and stickers. Since April, in malls, train stations, pubs, playgrounds, the Internet, you would find males of all ages – from age 5 to 55+ bartering and exchanging football stickers. The aim is to fill up the album completely and the total cost goes up to hundreds of Euros. No one is immune from this collector’s fever – from the construction worker to the investment banker to my five-year old twins.

The movie houses will be closed. Almost all cinemas in Zurich are closed during the championships. There would be no patrons coming in anyway. Everybody will be glued to TV screens instead. And the screens would be everywhere – pubs, town squares, school houses, shopping malls – and yes – even in corporate conference rooms. I remember during the 2006 World Champions, a memo was issued by our company’s managing director that employees were allowed to watch a major German match in our conference room – as long as they work extra hours on another day.

The tight security. Uniformed and plainclothes police are everywhere. Helicopters and military planes will be hovering up there all the time. The water police force will be patrolling Switzerland’s numerous lakes and rivers while boat owners are praying their property would be spared from vandalism. Heaven help the us once the hooligans get going.

But fellow European women, don’t despair! There are entrepreneurial and sympathetic souls out there who are aware of our needs and sufferings. In Germany in 2006, the large shopping malls, normally open only till 8 pm, extended their opening hours till midnight. This way, the neglected women could shop in peace while men sat in front of the TV with their sausage and beer.

In Switzerland, many establishments are offering football-free entertainment. A couple of cinemas will be showing films catering to women only and Sex and the City will be on top of the list. Several restaurants, hotels and spas declared their businesses to be football-free and will be catering to people who would like to escape the football epidemic. Even the TV channels showing football will be disabled in hotel room TVs.

However, a word of warning: the football fever is quite contagious. I’m getting kind of excited myself!


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