Friday, January 9, 2009

Oman Madness

We attended a true event here this past week. Maybe unbeknownst to you, the Gulf Cup is in full swing at the moment and Oman is hosting. To set the stage, for the past couple weeks about one in five cars on the road have taken on decal, flags and pictures to support the Omani soccer team. It is anything from green and red stripes, to stars and messages all over the vehicle. I am not exaggerating when I say one in five cars. To top that off, whenever there is a game, many of our students wear scarves, armbands and jerseys to class and many businesses have put up large flags and pictures of the team on the sides of their buildings.

So this past Wednesday (which is like our Friday) was the Oman vs. Iraq game. Our friend Gus ‘gently’ convinced us it was imperative to attend the game. This meant Gus and Daniel hightailing it out of work Wednesday at noon, first to a gas station to get the correct apparel for all of us, then to Muscat. The game, which started at 6, was free. As I mentioned, there are more than enough fans to fill the stadium, so Gus and Daniel arrived there at around 2 to try and get us seats. I trailed behind a few hours later, having had to attend a meeting. We all got in, in good time. I must say that this was one good moment to be a woman. The ratio at the game was about one woman to every thousand men. However, there was a line just for women, and female bodyguards to do a security check. Which meant, no line and no pushing.

So we all plopped down in the “family section”, the only place where men and women can sit together, after being given free plastic bat things that made a loud noise when slammed together and flags to wave. Now, I know sporting events draw people in face paint, wigs and crazy outfits, but I have never seen such a large number of people outdoing themselves. EVERYONE had on some sort of costume. It was wild. Some of the stranger ones were women who covered their face with a flag instead of the usual black scarf. The cheering started at 2 and continued until 8 when the game ended.

Now the Oman team has one very popular player, their goalie Habsi, who plays for the Premiere league, but the Omani team was considered the clear underdog for this game. It could be said that the Iraq team had a very off day and the Omani team played well (which is true), but it almost seemed as if the crowd won the game. They never stopped cheering, and whenever Iraq would get the ball, the entire crowd would boo or whistle. I can see how Iraq managed to not score and let in 4 goals. Yes, the score was Oman 4 Iraq 0. Although I thought the booing was a bit much, the crowd’s performance was something to behold and I don’t think I will ever see anything to compare. The best part was when we were leaving our seats. At the mouth of our entrance there was a celebration party. Drums, dancing and a celebration song. Daniel got it on video, we will post the link soon. I would also like to add a note that the Iraqi fans did their duty as well. Flags and organized cheering with a large bass drum. But they were one section out of too many. Anyways, who knows how Oman will fair with some of the stronger teams later in the Cup, but they had their moment, and it was lived to its fullest.

No comments: