Barbourfields and Rufaro stadiums have been labelled “theatres of machismo”, particularly during Highlanders and Dynamos games where obscenities are hurled at women leading to a sharp drop in female attendance at football matches, a study by a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) researcher has shown.
The study by UZ academic researcher and historian Anusa Daimon paints a grim picture of the country’s top stadiums, which has seen the number of female football fans dwindling.
The study said women are discriminated at Rufaro and Barbourfields in certain sections of the stadiums. The research, which is set to ruffle feathers, labels Highlanders and Dynamos fans as the most violent.
The study said the presence of women at stadiums often evokes obscene jokes and comments leading women to stay at home.
The study paints the country’s biggest stadiums, Barbourfields home to Highlanders and Rufaro home to DeMbare, as “hardhat areas” mostly for women although males are also targets of abuse and violence.
The study goes on to say that it is also common in Zimbabwe to disparagingly associate defeated teams with women in a sexist manner.
For instance, Dynamos FC supporters always make a caricature of their rival Highlanders FC as “Umfazi weDeMbare” (in the event of winning) implying Dynamos’ woman.
The research said to avoid becoming targets of such violations, most women in Zimbabwe either totally desist from attending soccer matches or prefer to sit in the VIP sections of the stadium. Some women are said to become registered supporters to avoid being ridiculed.
“Zimbabwean stadia have become arenas for the display of machismo. Consequently, most Zimbabwean women prefer not to attend these stadia because they perceive these structures as very endocentric. There are particular seating areas or grandstands where the most volatile and vocal males are found during matches.
“For example, in Harare’s Rufaro Stadium, which is the home of Dynamos FC, Zimbabwe’s most popular team but arguably with the most violent supporters, there is an area popularly known as the ‘Vietnam’ stand. The name ‘Vietnam’ is a metaphor for the brutality of the Vietnam War of the 1960s. So this section of Rufaro Stadium represents a war zone, solely preserved for Dynamos fans.
“Paradoxically, the name ‘Rufaro’ denotes happiness or joy. Most hooligans, who include rogues and criminals, are found in this area,” said the study.
Daimon said he had discovered that any non-Dynamos fans, including males, who trespass into “Vietnam”, are violently mobbed and ejected.
“Likewise, women who venture into this warzone are subjected to violation by male supporters.
Women who venture into these areas are described as ‘having balls’ since soccer is seen as celebrating masculinity and male bonding. It is the same situation at Bulawayo’s Barbourfields Stadium whose ‘Soweto’ stand is a domain of the volatile Highlanders ‘Bosso’ FC supporters.
The name ‘Soweto’ is associated with bloodshed reminiscent of the killings in Soweto township during the apartheid era in South Africa,” said the study.