Women are equally passionate for the beautiful game and European football, which has become ubiquitous thanks to the advent of satellite television and internet, has become an integral part of their lives
Eminent Iranian director Jafar Panahi released his famous title "Offside" back in 2006 to depict the situation of female football lovers in Iran, a conservative country where women are not allowed to enjoy men’s games at stadiums, and showed how the passion of this game breaks all the taboos and impediments.
Bangladesh, despite being a Muslim majority, is a liberal country and women are competing with their male counterparts in various aspects including sports, but the female football fans are still facing all kinds of social hindrance.
However, as depicted in Panahi’s masterpiece, women are equally passionate for the beautiful game and European football, which has become ubiquitous thanks to the advent of satellite television and internet, has become an integral part of their lives.
As a matter of fact, for some of them, football is tantamount to life.
Fahia Marazana, 31, an assistant junior teacher of British Bangladesh International School and College, understood how football salvaged her from her greatest grief.
Fahia, an ardent Liverpool fan, lost her mother last year, but she could get some solace as her favourite club won the coveted English Premier League after a long wait of 30 years.
“Winning the league was the only good thing happened after I lost my mother. Liverpool keep me alive,” said Fahia to Dhaka Tribune.
The Kopite also added that she is an avid collector of football magazines and as a girl of pre-internet era, amassed many memorabilia with regards to the beautiful game, especially of her two childhood heroes, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen.
For Shehreen Abed, 23, a student of IER of University of Dhaka, it has become a passion to collect merchandises like jerseys, posters, scarves of Real Madrid, the club she loves most.
Shehreen, who started to follow Real from 2009 at the tender age of 11, got support from her elder brothers in a joint family.
“It is somewhat weird how a game can make my week or ruin it completely. Life would’ve been so boring without this game,” said Shehreen, who was ecstatic while talking about her passion.
Lamissa Newaz, 23, a software engineering student of a Malaysian University, echoed Shehreen as a fellow Madridista.
Her father was her inspiration and gradually the Spanish club became the source of her greatest joy.
“In 2016, despite having my HSC exam’s math paper due in the morning, I could not avoid the final of the UCL. My team won, I celebrated till 5am and appeared in the exam five hours later as the happiest person on earth,” said Lamissa.
For Nighat Tamma Torsha, 23, a final year CSE student, the story is altogether a different one.
Her father was not a football fan and she did not have any idea about the game until she was nine.
But she was hooked to the sheer beauty of the game watching it on television and gathering info from newspapers.
She started to follow almost each and every EPL game and suddenly felt deep love with the playing style of Gareth Bale and Peter Crouch.
She became a Tottenham Hotspur fan and with despair she discovered that the traditional club have been going through a dry run with no silverware in their cupboard since 2008.
However, for Torsha, that was never a problem.
“We love to take stress from the things we adore. Not getting success is a pain but being loyal to football club is the utmost thing for me as a fan,” said Torsha.
Chowdhury Ishrat, 26, an electrical engineer, who loves cooking and gardening, is also eagerly waiting for the success of another London club - Chelsea.
Fareeha Nawsheen Rahman, a media studies student of University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh also found the sense of belonging ever since she became a fan of the Blues.
Fareeha is also a keen sportsperson and has special affinity with football and basketball.
She also loves to do music.
Feiroz Humayara is also a multi talent as she loves reading and reviewing books, write blogs and cook but more than anything else she is a proud supporter of Manchester United.
Feiroz’s arch-rival Tasnima Hossain, an international relations student of DU, a supporter of LFC, is also eager to become a football analyst as she loves to explain various aspect of the game to people.
Nigar Sultana Sharnali, a journalism student of the same university, who claims that she "eats, drinks and lives with" Bayern Munich by heart, also wants to become a football pundit in future.
The girls’ football in the country is thriving and bringing many accolades en route to hoisting the country’s flag higher in the global arena.
Female players are breaking the barriers and the mainstream media as well as the public have started to appreciate their efforts.
But unfortunately, despite having similar or even greater passion than their male counterparts, the female fans are still sidelined harshly.
Even in social media, the female fans often face bullying and harassment.
Unfortunately, during the banters and debates in the football groups, some resort to sexist attacks that repelled these people, who love this game more than anything else.
Tahlina Wahida Tania Chowdhury, member of an exclusive female football group in facebook, expressed her frustration.
She thinks it is not expected that only female supporters form a group, but the harsh reality compelled them to do so.
For her, it is duty of the media and the true lovers of the game to accommodate more and more female fans so that they can adorn and enrich the game.
“Accepting girls as human being rather than discriminating them for gender is the greatest step forward for equality. Football, the most popular game on earth provides us that opportunity. It may not sound a great deal, but, if we change the perception about female fans and allow them to express themselves, it will not only benefit the game but also the society in broader aspects. Respecting fellow female fans, creating harmony with them and revering their knowledge and passion will reduce the discrimination and wrongdoings against women. This will be a giant step for human civilization,” said Tania.