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Female soccer fans are a conspicuous minority  

 Soccer fever in Germany is not subject to gender limitations. At the stadium, at public viewings or at home, ladies are tuning in to the World Cup just as much as the guys. But it's not a new phenomenon, says one expert.

Nicole Selmer is author of the book "Watching the Boys Play -- Women as Soccer Fans" (AGON-Sportverlag, 2004). When not following the World Cup, she faithfully roots for Borussia Dortmund -- through thick and thin.


DW-WORLD.DE: It's predominantly men who attend soccer games during the regular season, but now we're suddenly seeing tons of women in the stands. What's different?


Nicole Selmer: Unfortunately I have to contradict that statement. I've been in the World Cup stadiums and I have to say that there are fewer women there than during the regular Bundesliga season. I would say that women make up about a quarter of the spectators at Bundesliga games, but less than that now during the World Cup. There are a whole lot of women at the fan fests, public viewings, in the pubs and definitely in front of the TV at home. A good half of the viewers there are women.


Nicole Selmer found an interest in soccer during the 1982 World Cup 

Why are women suddenly so interested in soccer?


It's not the case that women are interested in soccer now all of a sudden. The discovery that women sit in front of the TV and watch soccer games has been made during every World Cup for the past 16 years. That was the case in Italy in 1990 as well. Half of the people watching the semi-final Germany-England game were women. That was true in '94 in the US and in '98 in France. In South Korea the crowd was totally female -- you could even hear it in the fans' high-pitched screeching -- and the same thing is being discovered again in Germany right now. Actually, it's really not a new phenomenon. Certainly, a lot more women are interested in national games than in the Bundesliga, but that's true about the men, too. 


The cliche goes that women want to check out the players' well-toned legs and backsides and hope to catch a glimpse of naked torsos when they trade jerseys at the end of the game. Is there truth to the stereotype?


It really is a stereotype. But it's true that women can talk about other things at a soccer game than men. When the men get up and go to the concession stand for a beer -- then maybe the women will talk about how the players look or who they like. Those are probably things the men don't talk about, because it doesn't fit with the classic cliche of how a fan is supposed to act.


Do men and women watch soccer in the same way?


I know from my interviews with female fans that there are quite a lot of similarities, which tend to outweigh the differences. But the major difference is that going to a stadium doesn't have the same meaning for men and women. When men go alone, they don't get stared at and they don't have to explain the offsides rule when they become chancellor. [German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked by journalists to explain the offsides rule.]   


Are the women just there to check out the players' fine-tuned bodies  -- like Michael Ballack's?  

Men always like to pretend that they are real soccer experts and would have led their team to victory a long time ago had someone given them the chance. Are women like that, too?


Yes, sometimes. I think for women there is a wide spectrum of behavioral styles as far as soccer is concerned. Take the classic situation of a large group of people sitting in front of the television. There are women who make an extra effort to say things like, "Oh, that's so cute!" Maybe just to bother their husbands a little bit. And then there are other women who try to make a lot of clever statements and enjoy the attention they get.


Women often have to put up with the accusation that they don't even know what an offsides trap is. Is that different now during the World Cup, where women are attending public viewings with big screens and following the games on their TV at home?


I don't think so. The fan fests and public viewings aren't really about soccer. No one talks about offsides or tactics there. It's just about having fun -- it's not even only about winning. You can see that in the fans of the teams that have lost. They're not as sad as the fans in the Bundesliga. It's a bit less existential, I think.  


Women's soccer has been booming since these German ladies won the World Cup in 2003, said Selmer  

Since the World Cup started, you can see people kicking soccer balls around at all the parks. With this general increase in soccer enthusiasm, do you think that more women will also begin playing?


I definitely think so. But I also think that has to do with the women's soccer boom that's been going on since the German team won the World Cup title in 2003. That has certainly had an influence as well. More and more girls are playing soccer as children, so it's something they start to see as normal, something they know about.


How did you first become interested in soccer?


I became interested in soccer by watching the 1982 World Cup when I was 12. Actually, it wasn't a particularly good World Cup and the German games were especially unimpressive, but that made the excitement get to me all the more. Besides, I thought Kalle Rummenigge was really great. And since then the enthusiasm hasn't left me.


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