I’ll be honest: I don’t really care about football, soccer, the beautiful game, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t really care about most sports, actually. The rush of second-hand adrenaline and jittery excitement that people feel watching men kick, throw, or pass balls around is not something I know well.
But this is not a particularly popular position: as we speak, four billion people — over half of the human population — are watching the various matches of the FIFA World Cup.
People travel from all across the world to pack into the freshly-constructed stands, scream for their team until their throats get hoarse, and inevitably get into scuffles with the other team’s fans. Again, not really my thing. I do get it, though — soccer is the most popular sport in the world, connecting billions of human beings together, and it allows folks from all over the world to take pride in their nation, which is especially beautiful for those from countries that have been left behind or decimated by larger empires.
My qualm is not with those devoted, patriotic fans: it’s with the millions of young men who spew hatred online towards people — primarily girls — that are excited about the World Cup without being a devoted stan of some team or the other. I see it all over Twitter, Instagram, and especially TikTok: the comment sections are now cesspools of cruelty towards young girls who are just now getting to know Ronaldo or Messi.
Much of this is not even a conscious choice of the girls in question; as I said, I’ve never cared about soccer, but my TikTok has been absolutely flooded with World Cup content since the start of the matches. It’s the same for most TikTok users, meaning they did not seek out this information or media, but were instead spoonfed it by the gods of the For You page. And kill me, soccer stans, but Richarlison, Neymar, Bellingham, Pusilic: these are some good-looking men! Why should it matter that I cried when Brazil lost because I think the team is hot and funny and not because of Neymar’s something-or-other passing record or so-and-so’s great-uncle’s wish that he wins the World Cup?
The ire towards young women who care more about the dramatic edits of the sweaty soccer players than their entire athletic history is also fascinating to me because I have never, ever had a boy my age express any interest in traditionally feminine media.
Since when has a man ever asked to discuss Otessa Moshfegh’s body of work, or to analyze bell hook’s theories on love, or to talk about the evolution of fashion — and its socioeconomic implications — from heroin-chic to slim-thick and back again?
Since when has a man ever even remotely cared about the WNBA or the U.S. women’s soccer team — even though the women have won the World Cup four times and the men haven’t won once? Haven’t men hammered it into women that they don’t care about our interests and think we’re so horrible at sports that our wins aren’t even worth recognition?
Ever since I was thankfully able to break free of my pick-me era (much love to the girls still stuck there — I promise life is so much better when you stop caring about those boys’ opinions) I have proudly, unabashedly shared my distaste for traditionally masculine media. There is absolutely nothing more “real” or “cool” about men’s sports versus women’s sports besides the utter lack of interest that men have in anything related to women and girls — so I’m more than happy to return the favor. I don’t care about Argentina’s legacy or France’s offside kicks, I care about watching cute footballers do celebration dances while finishing my essay on intersectional feminism that’s due tonight.
So as I mournfully post about Brazil losing to Croatia, I am utterly content, even when old flings from high school slide up about me being a “fake fan.” Yes, I love Brazil because Richarlison is handsome; yes, you don’t love any women’s team because you think we all suck and are boring. Just be happy that I care about this World Cup at all and that we now have something to talk about besides your camera roll.
When it’s the women’s turn, I know I won’t be as lucky.
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