Toxic Masculinity In Football Needs To Be Addressed

This weekend, the news and social media were awash with images of Kaizer Chiefs supporters storming onto the pitch of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Their team had just lost 2-1 to Free State Stars in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals and frustrated with the loss, supporters went onto the pitch. They began destroying camera equipment as well as setting fire to parts of the stands. In a video that has since gone viral, a male supporter is seen repeatedly assaulting a security guard on the ground. FATIMA MOOSA writes about why this cannot just be attributed to a simple thing of football hooliganism.

It would be easy to just say that what took place over the weekend was an act of disorderliness, aggression, and violence perpetrated by spectators at a sporting event. Football hooliganism is a problem all around the world, not just in South Africa. The sport is notorious for being a male-dominated sport that has long had a problem with hooliganism. Football culture is saturated with images of fans running onto the pitch to display their displeasure with a team’s performance, usually resorting to violence in order to make their point. Just recently in England, Liverpool fans attacked the Manchester City team bus as they made their way to the stadium for a Champions League clash. This is type of behaviour is nothing new.

However, perhaps what is new is how we should be viewing these events. They are not just a symptom of the fact that supporters resort to violence as a way of showing their frustration when things do not go their way. Football hooliganism does not belong in the sport especially when people’s lives are being put at risk just because they want to watch their favourite teams play.

Football hooliganism is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with in South Africa and around the world. Fans and clubs need to take responsibility for their actions but more than that, there needs to be a deeper look at the type of society we are growing for the future.

When boys and men are being socialised in toxic gender roles and toxic masculinity continues to thrive, is there any doubt that violence continues at football matches, a space that’s male-dominated? Toxic masculinity is the idea that in order to be a real man, you have to be dominant, powerful, unemotional, and rational.

Why we need to reimagine masculinity

Another closely related concept to that of toxic masculinity is masculinity so fragile where if a man’s masculinity is called into question, he would respond with violence and dominance to the situation. Therefore, if your team loses an important game or any game, it would be irrational or considered feminine or queer to start crying or show emotion. Rather the “manly” thing to do would be to express your feelings through violence as we witnessed this past weekend.

The Proteas lost at the Women’s World Cup and they cried. So what?

Toxic masculinity is detrimental to men especially in the way it socialises them to not show weakness, to always be the strong one, and to never show vulnerability. Toxic masculinity is responsible for domestic violence, rape culture, and sexual harassment and assault at schools, in workplaces; the list goes on. It is a culture of power and domination.

Toxic masculinity is very damaging to men in the way that it shapes their future and their interactions with the world around them.

Sports are not apolitical and if the issue of toxic masculinity is not tackled on the sports pitch, then how on earth is any progress going to be made to making the sport more accessible and inclusive to all and more importantly safe?

Moving forward in tackling violence on the football pitch and in society as whole, we need to address toxic masculinity and its harmful effects on men and women. Violence can never be excused, especially when it is being meted out in sporting events for no reason other than to show displeasure at your team losing. Boys and men need to be taught that showing their emotions are not a problem and there are ways to display their emotions without “manning up”.

Maybe then we will have scenes of football fans especially male fans crying and comforting each other instead of destroying property and resorting to violence to show their feelings.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons