Tunisians and the World Cup
By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 11/06/06
Tunisians are intently following their national team, which qualified for the fourth time in its history for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. The passion for the Carthage Eagles is visible on Tunis streets, where the team colours are prominently displayed.
Sports clothing stores are expected to double their profits during the World Cup. In some of the largest retail outlets in the northern outskirts of the capital, advertisements for bets and competitions related to the games have taken the place of advertisements for perfume and electronic goods and other products.
"These days the work is unending, and there are customers of all ages in the department that I look after, and woe betide me if I cannot find the right football jersey for a child customer," said Lamia, a 20-year old sales clerk. She added that she is sometimes envious of her friends who mind other clothing departments.
Many consumers are rediscovering analog television after abandoning it years ago for digital television receivers. Tunisians who are unable to afford to the digital Arab Radio and Television package are buying cheap analog aerials to pick up the terrestrial channel, which will broadcast all the games of the Tunisian national team, as well as the semi-finals and the final.
The number of television sets in Tunisian homes exceeds two million, with 70 per cent of these are connected to digital receivers. According to media expert Khamis al-Khiyati, Tunisians watch television for 2 hours and 45 minutes on any given day. Al-Khiyati expects this number to triple with the World Cup finals, which kicked off on Friday (9 June).
With each World Cup tournament, the lives of most Tunisian families are turned upside down, since this period between mid-June and the end of August is usually a time for holidaying, relaxing on beaches and staying in hotels. However, with the start of the World Cup, many families are forced to change their schedules, much to the chagrin of a large proportion of women uninterested in soccer.
"It is our destiny. We have to adapt ourselves to the freak conditions that come upon us every four years. I believe this time it will be even worse if our national team cannot get through to the second round. Summer will lose its flavour and Tunisian families won't be able to enjoy the yearly holiday as they usually do," said 40-year old businesswoman Khadija al-Mliti.
Tunisians are wondering if the authorities will be taking extra security measures during the World Cup to prevent demonstrations, which are normally banned. Sports fans are usually an exception -- especially fans of the national team who are often described as well behaved.
Adil al-Shawish, a member of parliament and the leftist opposition Reform Party, considers this concern, reported by some of the international media, "a figment of the imagination".
"This occasion is an opportunity for everyone in the world, Tunisians included, to affirm their patriotism, and for people of different groups to come together, and for intellectuals and cultural figures, politicians and simple workers, to pursue the common interest on an equal footing," al-Shawish said.
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