September 20th, 2010
Gay Men In Football: Tackling The Pink Elephant On The Pitch
Will this ever happen in football? Image trojanpublishing.co.uk via thoroughlygood
We love manlove. Many of our readers love manlove. But when it comes to real, actual man-love, the footy universe seems to be stuck in the 1800s.
We know that as much as Kickette exists for women, we’re also read by men. Whether they’re hetero and hoping for WAGs in short dresses, or they’re gay men who happen to share some of our philosophies, (not least the rampant pursuit of hot, tanned, toned abdominal muscles preferably smeared in coconut oil), we know the boys are out there.
To consider: while we love this game with as much fervour and desire as the next person, our support is not necessarily welcomed with open arms by some of the more ‘traditional’ breed of football fan. To be a woman in a bar trying to watch her club/country play can often be fraught with the danger of approach by fat geezers wanting to question our right to be there. To be a gay fan in the same environment? We shudder to imagine.
This ridiculous state of affairs is not helped by the fact that there are currently no (we’ll repeat that… nooooooo) openly gay players in elite football today. And considering what happened last time a player came out, we’re not surprised.
Of course, a lot has changed since then. David Beckham led the charge, redefining the boundaries of what it means to be a ‘man’ and bringing previously unheard of practices (waxing, dressing properly, deodorant) into the hetero male arena. But that change does not appear to have filtered through to the terraces, where those who previously utilised racism as a means of supporting their club have now embraced homophobia as the prejudice du jour. Sol Campbell will tell you that.
We’d have thought/hoped that the commercialisation of football would actually have made a safer space for gay players and fans to express themselves; football is marketed as the global game for everyone, after all. Maybe it’s simply that football has its roots so deeply planted in concepts of masculinity that there is simply no room for difference, whether gay or female.
But why does the idea of a gay footballer present such a threat? Are these guys worried that one of their players (and subsequently their team) will be perceived as effeminate? Soft? Are they fearing that they will somehow be tainted by the ‘gay’ – that they’ll find themselves surreptitiously eyeing up the archives of our beloved TTO instead of concentrating on team formation and tactics like a ‘real’ man?
There are many more considerations to a player coming out than supporter reaction, of course. The branding issue for example. Would a club tolerate a gay player and the impact on its own image? Would the player’s corporate sponsors stand by him? The modern game is money driven and as the recent Wayne Rooney marital ish demonstrated, sponsorship deals are very sensitive to how their ‘product’ is perceived by the public.
And of course, precedents are few and far between. Former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas took the step in December 2009 and after some predictable hysteria in the British tabloids, found plenty of support from his fellow players. An incident involving rival fans chanting homophobic abuse was dealt with severely via the Rugby Football League Tribunal panel and Thomas has recently been picked to represent his country once again in the British Lions autumn campaign. The message being if you are good enough, it doesn’t matter who you choose to date.
Anyone who disagrees with this and believes that Gareth Thomas is less of a man because of his sexuality should approach him and tell him so to his face. Oh, and call us. We’d love to watch.
Truth is, the first footballer to come out of the closet would find himself at the centre of a massive media storm. The player and his team-mates would be scrutinised to an unprecedented degree and any perceived slight (failing to pass the ball, proximity during goal celebrations etc) would be analysed to death. But considering the manner in which many elite players live their lives now, would it really be that different?
On the other hand, coming out is a hugely personal decision and we’re not certain that it could ever be made with so many other factors in play. This is a shame as the message of inclusivity for the next generation of footballers and fans would be a hugely positive one.
Not to mention the fact that we would love it. We’ve never made any secret of our passion for the bromance** and the idea of two of our boys finding love with each other thrills us more than we can say. Imagine the photo opps! The cuteness factor! The excitement is palpable.
Nope. We don’t understand it, either.
FYI: you can help support anti-homophobia in footy here.
**We have included pictures of men hugging. To anyone who is unclear, men hugging in no way implies they are gay. The fact that we even have to make this note is what inspired us to write this post in the first place.
Note: any defamatory comments will be deleted.