autobiography of a fan

We all have our reasons for loving things the way we do. Here are some of mine.

“Yes, I Can Explain the Offside Rule” – Women, Gender, and European Football Fandom

with 8 comments

Paula Paxton, the offside rule (Bend It Like Beckham)

“The offside rule is…when the French mustard…has to be between the teriyaki sauce…and the sea salt?”

This has to be the oldest cliché in the book by now. “Women don’t understand the offside rule” – and Paula Paxton is the stereotypical poster child. But you know, women do understand the offside rule. And the away goal rule. And anything else that traditional male football fans do.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about women and football fandom. And with any luck, it won’t be the last: I’m applying for a fellowship to travel abroad for one year, to study the politics of gender in European football fandom – specifically, by recording the experience of female football fans. I’m talking about female fans – traditional and non-traditional – in the highly masculine arena of professional men’s football.

Look through any Top 10 or Top 100 list of best football books. You’ll find maybe two books that have anything to do with women, and neither of those will be about female fans. “But there aren’t that many books about fans in general,” you argue. Well, yes. Except no. Just off the top of my head – Fever PitchHow Soccer Explains the WorldBloody Confused, The World is a Ball… But if you want to know about them wimminfolk who love this beautiful game? Good luck. There are a couple of articles, there are one-off incidents you hear about in the news, and as for the rest, look to. the. blogosphere.

I’ve met so many strong, intelligent, passionate women whose voices as fans and supporters are simply not recognized. Not all of us are traditional fans, sure. But we all love the game. I have met women who came to football on their own, alone and far from the clubs and leagues they support; and I have met women who are third, fourth, fifth generation supporters of a club whose colors run as deep as blood in their veins.

I’m talking about you – you, who have offered me support and shared your kindness and passion for this sport. You, who have moved me and inspired me and humbled me beyond words. You, whom I reach out to now.

These stories – our stories – are ones worth telling. Because until we listen, we can’t presume to know. So I’d like to give a voice to all of us, the female fans – marginalized, disregarded, embedded deep into the fabric of football culture. Women love football, too. We deserve a chance to tell the world how, and why.


So here’s why I’m writing this post: to ask for your help. I’m proposing to travel to Spain, Germany, and Italy (or possibly Turkey) to pursue this study. As such, here are my top three concerns:

1. Places to stay. A couch, a floor. A spare room. I will have a modest stipend: not enough to find a place on my own, but enough to share a flat or cover utility costs or however else you’d like to be compensated. I promise to be an unobtrusive roommate. And I can cook!

2. Translators. You wil be paid, and as generously as my stipend allows. I am moderately competent in Spanish, but I can’t speak a word of German, and my Italian stretches about as far as “…hey, that kind of looks like the Latin word for _____.” If you are bilingual in German, Italian, and/or Spanish (or Turkish) and may be able to help out in this project, let me know! No concrete commitments needed – I just want to get a sense that this might be possible.

3. Contacts with fans, fan groups, etc. The cornerstone of my project, obviously. Names, pubs, phone numbers, emails, twitters, whatever. If you are/know of female fans who want to be heard, hit me up.

If you can help in any way, or want to see my full project proposal, send me an email: Or DM me on twitter: @mimsicality. Or drop a comment!

And even if you can’t do anything listed above, I’d ask that you help by signal-boosting. Share this with your followers, your friends, whatever. Every little bit helps. And every little bit means the world to me.

Thanks for your time,



P.S. Since someone just pointed this out to me (and I’m a derp for omitting it) – TENTATIVE TRAVEL TIMELINE:

  • GERMANY : August 2013 – November 2013
  • SPAIN: December 2013 – March 2014
  • ITALY/TURKEY: April 2014 – July 2014

Written by June P.

September 27, 2012 at 5:02 AM

8 Responses

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  1. This is such an awesome idea/project/fellowship proposal thing. it sucks that the only (English) book about female fans I can think of is Anne Coddington’s “One of the Lads: Women Who Follow Football”. I mean, it’s a great book, but not so brilliant that we couldn’t have done with maybe another one in the last 15 years…

    If you’re going to Germany though, can I recommend Nicole Selmer’s “Watching The Boys Play: Frauen als Fußballfans [Women as Football Fans]“, Michael Schmidt’s “Klischees vom weiblichen Fußballfan – Realität und Fiktion [Clichés of the Female Football Fan - Fact and Fiction]“, and Almut Sülzle’s “Fußball, Frauen, Männlichkeiten: Eine ethnographische Studie im Fanblock [Football, Women, Manliness: An Ethnographic Study in the Stands]“, though I’m not sure if translations of them exist The first two at least are very good (Selmer’s especially imo), I can’t speak for Sülzle’s yet as I’m saving up for it (€35 is so out of my range rn). So people are writing about it…just not in English any more, apparently :/

    Selmer’s website:
    And a column she wrote in English, to give you an idea of her style, stance and awesomeness:

    …And now I realise none of that is actually relevant to what you asked for in the post and you’re probably way ahead of me…but potentially I could do some German translating if you need, and I can give you contact details for plenty of female Werder fans (and some of other clubs…I think)…I’ll ask around, see who’s interested.

    Morag Brenan (@Taversham)

    September 27, 2012 at 7:39 AM

  2. Good luck with the fellowship application!

    Unfortunately I don’t live in Germany, but here’s some literature in pdf form from master thesis’ over essays to term papers. The authors can probably help you out with contacts in Germany too:

    There was also a report on female ultras in Germany on TV last week:


    September 27, 2012 at 5:45 PM

  3. [...] I posted about my proposed project three weeks ago, I have received an overwhelming response from all of you in the US, in the UK, in [...]

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