In an effort to curb fan violence at its soccer matches, the Turkish Football Federation decided to ban male fans from certain games — the first of which was Tuesday’s match between Manisaspor and Fenerbahce SK in Istanbul. More than 40,000 women and children showed up, and the result was wildly successful — the teams played to a 1-1 draw free of violence between their fans.
The most important takeaway from the game, however, wasn’t that female sports fans are less violent than their male counterparts. It’s that they’re just as passionate:
It’s not new here or abroad that sports are, stereotypically, a guy thing. But in international soccer, there are especially large barriers to women’s equal participation as fans or players. The Brazilian men’s national team is the pride of the country, but the women’s team barely receives enough funding to train. In Iran, women are banned not just from attending men’s matches, but from watching national broadcasts of them as well. FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, banned the Iranian women’s team from an Olympic qualifier because its members refused to play without wearing headscarves.
But even when countries and cultures make it harder for women to be fans and players, it’s amazing to see how female athletes and sports fans are pushing for equality. Brazil’s World Cup team narrowly lost to the well-funded American side in the quarterfinals of this year’s tournament. Iranian women risk severe punishment by dressing up as men to attend soccer matches there. And, now, as the 45,000 singing, chanting, jersey-clad Turkish women showed the world Tuesday night, passion for a sport or team isn’t just for the guys. No matter what barriers exist, women around the world keep showing that these are their games too.