The World Cup and African Women

NAIROBI – When I was born, 25 years ago, it would have been rare – even taboo – to find African women discussing soccer. But that is what my girlfriends and I now do.

I grew up in Kenya, where my compatriots follow the English Premier League zealously, perhaps because of our colonial connection to England. Kenyans are so passionate about the Premier League that last year an Arsenal fan, Suleiman Omondi, hanged himself after his team lost to Manchester United. This year, another Arsenal fan in the coastal town of Lamu stabbed a Manchester United fan in the stomach.

Kenyan women love soccer, too. I’m a Chelsea fan, and so are most of my girlfriends. We rarely disagree. We console each other when Chelsea loses, and worry together when our team plays big clubs, like recently when they played Liverpool, the only major contender that stood between Chelsea and the English title. Fortunately, Chelsea won.

But, as the World Cup moves into its quarter and semi-final matches, my girlfriends have started to argue. Although we don’t exchange blows like men, we are just as passionate, especially since the world’s most famous tournament is being played on our continent. Sometimes it seems like we spend more time arguing about soccer than we do chatting about men.