Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yalla Al-Ordon!

Last Friday evening, our friend Jordan called and asked if we were up for attending a national football game, Iraq vs. Jordan. The game was apparently a big one, deciding some sort of rank in some sort of international tournament (maybe the world cup? idk..) We were warned that as females, we would probably get a significant amount of attention, considering the fact that national football games are just a huge shabab (young men) fest. We decided to go anyway…how could we miss out on such an awesome opportunity as a national football game against our neighboring rival? Plus, I was pretty excited to show some national Jordanian pride. On the ride to the stadium, it was clear that Jordanians love their football- cars honking their horns, young men running around everywhere with Jordanian flags, face paint, the whole nine yards (not to mention a sizable number of riot policemen and military personnel). We wandered around trying to find a ticket booth while avoid looking like a group of confused foreigners (to no avail). Luckily, we befriended a nice riot policeman who managed to sneak us past the barracks and on to the ticket booth. After getting our tickets, I turned around to a news camera in my face, with a many shouting “Iraq or Jordan??” at me. I yelled “Al-Ordon!” loudly as I ran away (getting yourself on Jordanian television at a national football game is probably not the best idea…) After pushing through hordes of curious and overly friendly shabab, we finally made it to the stadium. Security gave us a hassle about our cameras (which ended up being pretty ironic considering the amount of pictures that were taken of us) but then finally let us in. A random guy led us to the end of the stadium, away from the majority of the fans…I guess they didn’t want us to cause a distraction from the game. As we were walking in, a group of fans started chanting “welcome to Jordan” at us…which was nice, but also kind of strange to have fans chanting at you instead of the football players at a game. The game was so much fun to watch; I probably spent more time watching the fans than the players. It was fascinating to watch how intense the cheering got…there were people whose main job was to direct the cheering, making it in sync and as organized as possible. At halftime, we got swarmed by shabab with cameras who shoved Jordanian flags and pictures of King Abdullah in our hands while posing next to us. The token white kids, I suppose. The game was fun to watch, and the atmosphere was even better. An older Saudi man sitting next to me tried to impress me with the amount of business trips he had taken to America. Even though he was slightly annoying, I was thankful for the role he played as a buffer between me and the group of shabab on his other side peering eagerly over with cameras in their hands. The riot police were in full swing, patrolling everywhere, with their numbers doubling about 10 minutes before the game ended. It was interesting to watch their reactions to the crowd- every time something good would happen, the fans would be happy, but the riot police would visibly tense up, knowing that excitement in crowds can sometimes be trouble. The game ended in a tie, and as we left, we accumulated a small parade of shabab behind us. It really is ridiculous how much attention a group of American college kids can attract. It was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait until the next national football game. Yalla Al-Ordon! 

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