News Carol Hunt

Friday 28 October 2016

Ladies, you too can be a real diehard soccer fan and still want to bang the goalkeeper

To hell with the technical side of the Beautiful Game - let's sit down and ogle the beautiful players

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

Buff: Cristiano Ronaldo
Buff: Cristiano Ronaldo

With one minute to full-time, it looked as if France were about to suffer a humiliating draw with underdogs Romania. Then came Dimitri Payet's stunning shot, sent straight into the top corner with his left foot, leaving goalkeeper . . . Oh, excuse me - what was I thinking?

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Here I am admiring the skill, the purpose, the talent of an athlete at the top of his game, when everybody knows that as a woman I should just be admiring his arse. Which, of course, I most definitely was, and I can report that it is a very fine arse indeed, much like the rest of his beautifully toned, muscle-rippling, taut body. I look forward to becoming better acquainted with it, and many other arses of similar quality, over the next few weeks.

Allelujah, ladies, summer has arrived - in the form of a whole month when every home, bar and convent sitting room in the country will have their flat screen TVs permanently tuned to showing us why soccer is called the Beautiful Game. Although I would much prefer to be in France - the home of the best tradition of philosopher-football - the next best thing is to watch as many games as possible on the telly. Obviously, being a woman, I don't have a clue about what's actually going on in the game. Ask me what the offside rule is and I'll roll my eyes and say: "Duh, who cares, when Ronaldo is taking his top off? Again." This is why women in places such as Iran and Saudi Arabia are not allowed to attend soccer games, lest the sight of men in tight shorts with rippling muscles cause them to have impure, Un-Islamic thoughts.

What I can't say is: "Ah, ref, come on - yer man was most definitely in front of the ball when it was played to him (without two defenders, including the goalkeeper, being closer to the goal)." That would not be "playing the game", the game that says that whereas men can watch sports with an analytic eye and ogle the women involved - think Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova in those short, short skirts - women only watch soccer for the eye candy or to keep their boyfriends/husbands company in the pub.

God forbid we may actually take an interest in the technicalities of the game - sure, how could we even begin to understand anything so complicated and, well, male as soccer (despite the fact that women's soccer is increasingly popular and they seem to get the rules of the game pretty well)?

So, even though nearly half of the people watching the European Championships this summer will have breasts and a vagina, only those with a penis will be permitted to officially write, comment and narrate on the events, with a few honourable exceptions.

God forbid if any of these token women dare to express an interest in a player that goes beyond his ability to dribble, shoot and score. Whereas men can straight-facedly tell us they watch bikini-clad women playing beach volleyball purely for the love of the sport, any woman who even pauses in front of a TV showing a soccer match is deemed only to be doing so to ogle the defenders' pecs.

I have to admit that I collude in my own sexist rhetoric here. When watching a match with blokes I usually take care not to comment on any of the specific tactics or analysis of the game, preferring instead to annoy them with comments about the physical attributes of the players. By doing this, though, I am "playing the game" - I'm allowing the boys to believe that soccer is a religion/science only understood by superior male brains. It keeps them happy, and I can still ogle Messi while secretly admiring his ability to glue a ball on to his toe.

On Friday, however, while trying to stop my husband chatting through the tenser moments of the France v Romania game, I realised I couldn't keep the deception up any longer.

So I have news for you guys. Love and understanding of the game and love of all those beautiful, tanned, toned, male bodies don't need to be mutually exclusive. Or, as one female fan put it during the last World Cup: "Ladies, you can be a real soccer fan and still want to bang the goalie". It's called multi-tasking.

Just because I have sight in my eyes and enough healthy hormones to appreciate the physical wonder that is the body of Jason Denayer, Olivier Giroud or the aforementioned Ronaldo doesn't mean I can't enjoy the technical skill, the elegance, the passion and the beauty of sport being played by athletes at their absolute peak.

Actually, I'd worry there was something wrong with my libido if I didn't get even slightly turned on by the sight of perfect physical specimens of manhood (obviously I'm excluding Wayne Rooney from this category) rolling and sweating and diving and disrobing on my TV screen. I'm not a eunuch.

I wasn't always such a fan of soccer tournaments - or the men who played in them, despite coming from a family of diehard football fanatics.

Eve ry Sunday as a child I would be dragged to whatever match my Dad was playing in and encouraged to be enthusiastic while watching grown men chase a ball around a field. At age 10 I didn't find this particularly inspiring, but then puberty set in, my brothers started playing and my father managed a local football team.

On Sunday mornings in my late teens I would be met by an entire soccer team in our kitchen as they gathered before the regular afternoon match. Football suddenly began to become more interesting. What can I say? I was young. I had hormones. All those fit young soccer boys. They were . . . there. Gulp. Ready to teach me about, erm, football.

In 1988 I watched Ray Houghton make history in that first match in Stuttgart against England and understood that inter ational soccer could be a very special sport indeed. It still is. Who doesn't rem- ember where they were when Packie Bonner saved "that" penalty against Romania?

So, if you can't watch Cristiano Ronaldo strip off his shirt to celebrate scoring yet another stunning goal without thinking "Phwoar, I so-o would!" don't worry. Many of the (straight) blokes are thinking exactly the same thing. They just never admit it. Not even to themselves. Bless.

Sunday Independent

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