The author looks at how rivalry in sporting competitions can take on extreme forms and proposes ways to just enjoy them instead.
Football fever is as high as it ever has been. With the Champions League and domestic leagues now over, the attention is all on Euro Cup 2016. If there’s one thing that gets people in the UAE and the world hyped up, it’s football. Major international competitions tend to bring people from all walks of life together to cheer for their favorite teams, even if these teams are their favorites momentarily. Some people may be supporting their country’s national team, some may be supporting a team they have been loyal towards for years, and others are in support of the latest cream of the crop. Just like any other trend that is suddenly popular and everyone must get their hands on, some football fans tend to jump on a bandwagon of the latest winning team. Regardless of which team people are supporting, suddenly everyone becomes an expert in football, and just as with any major competition, there is bound to be rivalry.
This is inevitable to some extent, and can be part of the excitement of competitions, but it can also reach levels beyond reason. There are instances where people on opposing sides mock one another, hurl insults at each other, or start fights all for a team that they don’t have any affiliation to apart from it just being a sport they should be enjoying. There are fans that can be unnecessarily patriotic even when it isn’t their place to do so.
Football doesn’t have to be personal, and this goes both ways, whether the end result is negative or positive. As an example, when the team I support has won an important title, I get messages from friends and family congratulating me on the win. And likewise, when the team has lost, I am offered condolences. While they may be thoughtful for doing so, and I can admit to feeling euphoric at watching my favourite team win, or disappointment when they don’t – I don’t think I “deserve” to be congratulated or consoled for the team’s results. This is merely a sport in which I have sat in the comfort of my own home and watched on television. I have not contributed in any other way to this sport, nor does my being impact the team in any way. Then why should we take credit or get into fights with opposing fans for their successes and failures?
I didn’t always feel this way and used to also engage in this back and forth banter with friends, but then it reached a point where doing so had no value apart from causing one another unnecessary anxiety. Football is a game with many ups and downs and can certainly keep fans occupied and entertained for hours on end, but it should remain just that – entertainment.
The current Euro Cup is an opportunity for people to come together and enjoy an exciting atmosphere. It is a chance to show empathy towards the fans who don’t get to watch their teams go through. It is a time to support one another unconditionally, and to share joy rather than spew hate. The UAE hosts many great locations for people to watch and enjoy these games, so the next time you head out there, and dress up in your team’s jersey, or paint your face with the colours of a flag, remember that the person next to you who may not support the same team, is also there with the same hope and optimism as you.
Should your team be the winning one, celebrate it, but not at the expense of hurting those who did not. Do not take joy in the misery of others, and instead, help lift their spirits back up. We live in a competitive world and there will always be some who win and some who do not, but no one should ever be allowed to feel like they have lost. Every day is a new opportunity to try to win again and to keep on fighting whatever journey we are on. Let the Euro Cup be a time to celebrate our uphill battles in life.