I felt my heart thumping in my chest, my hands sweaty with excitement, and then it all erupted – fans around me were screaming and jumping in joy and I was screaming and jumping with them.
I was in the middle of the Russian part of the Manchester City Stadium, watching the UEFA Cup Final between Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg. It was like experiencing an orgasm for the very first time: for me, who had always hated football with every cell of my body, it was an astonishing revelation. Somehow, there I was, supporting my team – it helped that Zenit are from Russia like me – and at the same time wondering how that was possible.
As for most women I know, football for me had always been something that men do. Something in Their lives. The game they play, watch, discuss. The reason they scream at the TV screens, spend a ridiculous amounts of money on kits and match tickets and generally behave like loud naughty children. Something that takes our men away from us into their special world with its own rules.
As no one had ever bothered to explain those rules to me, I felt no sympathy whatsoever to this Other Woman who was unashamedly borrowing my then husband for hours, sometimes whole evenings on end and who he seemed to enjoy so much more that spending time with me.
When football was on TV, I would stay upstairs sulking, or go out for the evening. I would concoct elaborate plans to make the Sky Box stop working for the duration of the match or, failing that, just make my partner’s life miserable every time he “cheated” on me with livescore terbaru.
As I parted from my ex, I swore I would never again go out with a man who was obsessed with football. My wish came true, I met a very masculine man who – incredibly! – didn’t care at all about the game! Life was perfect for about a year. Then, out of the blue, The Other Woman appeared again. My boyfriend got a job at Manchester United. He, who didn’t even like football, was now selling executive boxes for one of the world’s greatest football clubs! The irony got even sharper when my partner started to play for their office team. He also now “had to” learn about football, the game being the essential part of his new job.
I still resisted. Little by little, my lovely non-football boyfriend became as obsessed as any guy on the planet. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me all over again. This time though, my man made a real effort to include me as well. He arranged a tour of the stadium. He persuaded me to work as a hostess at the club during match days through a modeling agency. He bought me a ManUtd shirt and took me to lunch at the Red Café. He even got a Manchester United collar for our kitten Boris!
I was slowly melting in my resolve to hate football for the rest of my life. As a gesture of goodwill, I made an effort to watch all United matches and even enjoyed it a little bit, which was hard to admit.
Then I was offered to work as a hostess for the Zenit match. I knew that my dad supported Zenit, and thought it would be nice to tell him about the game afterward, so I said yes. When I saw Russian fans arriving at the stadium, something stirred in me. I could feel myself getting excited. Still resisting but curious, I decided to watch the game. By pure chance, I was right in the middle of the Russian part, and, unexpectedly, started to join in their chants. I suddenly felt part of something huge, as if I was a cell in the body of a giant watching the match. By the time Zenit scored, I was hooked.
The immense enjoyment of watching my team play was something I’d never felt before. I was a changed person. The next day I found myself buying merchandise on Zenit’s website. A week later, as my boyfriend traveled to Moscow for the final between Manchester United and Chelsea, I stayed up late watching the match on my own. There I was, screaming at the screen, pale and tense during the penalties, frantically texting my mates with “YEAH!” and “We did it!”as Man United won the game and the Cup.