Today was the first time I’ve experienced firsthand the phenomenon I’ve often heard happens outside of the USA: football mania. For all of you Americans, by football I mean soccer, not the sport of the Packers. Today was the World Cup preliminary match between Oman and Thailand, and it took place right here in Muscat.
The first way that it affected my life actually had to do with school: we were let out early from school because of the match. My school is fairly close to the stadium, and there was of course an expected influx of traffic in the area. The match began at 1 o’clock, so we were released from school at noon so that we wouldn’t add to the traffic and so that it wouldn’t inhibit student pickup.
Upon leaving school, it was very clear how completely psyched people were for the game. Just about everyone was in red, white and green. Outside of the stadium were thousands of people just waiting to get in. Today is probably the hottest day of the year so far, and so you have to admire the dedication of the people who attended the game.
When we got home, we of course turned on the TV to watch the match. I’m fairly certain that at least 99% of the households in Muscat tuned into the same channel. I’m also fairly certain that if someone were to somehow collect the energy of people whenever an Omani goal was scored that they could AC the entire country for an hour or two in June.
I won’t bore (alternately: fascinate) you with the details of the game, but Oman won 2-0. (Also, Saudi Arabia lost to Australia which is a huge deal because it means that Oman advances to the next round of the competition.) I actually had a class at Amideast, and while we were waiting for the driver to get us I got my first glimpse of what is called masira. Parade.
Upon return home, my host sisters and I went out to be observers. While a football victory masira is not an official parade in the 4th of July sense, it is quite possibly more exciting despite the lack of candy and Shriners in small cars.
Basically, we drove around Muscat for a while, observing the jubilant celebrators. Here is a list of people/ things I saw: a man who got out of his car to dance at a red light, several people riding on the tops of cars, countless flags draped on the top or back of cars, two men standing on the ledge of the window, many red, white, and green afro wigs, a guy (flashing a set of peace signs that would make Richard Nixon proud) on the back of a scooter, a red-green-and-white-sequined-mask, and a group of people camped outside of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And a lot of face paint.
I apologize for the lack of pictures… I took some, but my camera decided to blur absolutely everything. I swear, it really does have a vicious mind of its own.