It’s a general assumption that most men are interested in sports. So there’s no surprise that it turned into a stereotype that men gather around and hang out all day watching all types of sports, be it football, American football, basketball, rugby and whatnot. We see it all around us in the media, which can emphasize men’s obsession with sports. For example, TV shows usually portray a man trying to get out of a date with a girl only to go watch a game with friends instead. That raises a question, how important is sports to men? And how obsessed are they?

Psychologists believe that the obsession comes from the belief that sports are a macho subject. Retrospectively, you can only be perceived as a true man if you watch sports. Studies also show that the reason behind such a belief is insecurity and fear of not being seen as masculine enough. Then again, let’s not forget a father’s influence on his son. Naturally, a boy looks up to his father and tends to copy everything he does, from wearing a dishdasha at a young age just because “dad wears it all the time” to watching a game with his father at the dewaniya. The boy grows accustomed to the fact that this is what men do and it becomes a part of his daily life, which is entirely normal, just like the fact that we girls inherit our mothers' love for clothes and bags.

Let’s take a closer look at sports through football (and no, I don’t believe in calling it soccer). I’ve never been a big fan of sports in general. I mean, I like playing tennis or badminton but I’ve never felt the need to watch tennis tournaments. Sports never appeal to me enough to watch other people competing. However, I see my brothers who play, watch and support football religiously. Each one supports a different team, and God forbid that team loses, because all hell will break loose!

Once, I was watching a football game with my younger brother, who’s a diehard Arsenal fan. He kept mumbling, complaining, and cheering on his team which was unfortunately losing. They finally scored a goal and all of a sudden he jumped up and threw multiple pillows at me. Who in their right mind throws pillows because their team finally won? I’ll tell you: an obsessed football fan that’s who. After the initial shock of being on the receiving end of an attack of heavy pillows, I asked him, “What’s so important about football?”

Football season brought up the same question again, so I decided to ask my Twitter friends and followers a few questions about football. Luckily they were more than generous with helping me get the answers I need.

I came across the fact that people may choose their teams based on the surrounding environment. For instance, the people around them, how often that team won, a specific player in that team are all key elements in choosing a team to support. When I asked them how they would prioritize football in their lives, I got several answers. Some believe that it’s so important in their lives, that they have an obligation to save money so that they can travel to watch the game live. Khalid Hamada states simply, “I can’t live without it.”

Others believe that it’s not that important, as Rakan Al-Bahar puts it, “I’m obsessed with other interests that I follow, so following sports stories on a daily basis never made sense to me.”

Some even go to extreme lengths and say that their spouse must also support the same team. “Yes! It’s a priority. To find a girl you need something in common and sports should be one of them,” Fahad Al-Rasheedi candidly replied.

Other comments I received were that men in general enjoy competition and they can achieve that when people support different teams. A group of friends can be watching a game, some supporting one team and the others another team, and it will still be considered bonding. Cheering for different teams creates competition, and subconsciously that might be what attracts men. Getting a chance to gloat about their friends' losing team? Priceless.

Unfortunately, competition may not always be this friendly and male testosterone can get the best of them. I heard stories about guys that had gone into fights because of sports. If their team loses in a game of basketball or football for example, it can turn into a verbal or physical fight. Bad mouthing each other and taunting opposing crowds often lead to fights. Not only that, but sports fanatics will get into a really bad mood if their team loses a game.

On a more positive note, studies from the Mental Health Foundation show that men who watch sports are more prone to show their feelings towards other men as well. A man is comfortable with hugging his buddy whilst watching a game, on the contrary to other men who find showing their feelings or hugging friends are a big no-no.

Traditionally, men are not comfortable with sharing their inner thoughts unlike women. However, expressing their emotions comes naturally while watching a game. In addition to the emotional aspect of sports, this obsession also comes with another positive side. People, who enjoy sports, are less likely to suffer from obesity because of them being so active. Watching sports can also drive them to play sports too.

Lest I forget, I must mention the female sports fans. Among my Twitter discussion, one female football fan reached out to me regarding her passion for football. Here I thought that men were the only ones who were obsessed. I never imagined women could be just as obsessed! Just like men, some girls also follow in their fathers' footsteps in their love for sports. “Being the first child, I used to be daddy’s girl that went to the dewaniya a lot with him and watched football games with him and his friends,” commented Juventus fanatic Hala Al-Sabah.

After numerous debates with men on their love for sports, I have yet to come with a unanimous agreement on why some men become obsessed. It can be psychological, genetic, influenced by society, or maybe it's just that men like sports! Simple as that.

– Hadaya Al Othman

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