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.

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95 Responses to “Gay Men In Football: Tackling The Pink Elephant On The Pitch”

  1. blake2108 says:

    a very interesting read, Good on him
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/sep/25/da…

  2. 123 says:

    So how come this legenday Zlatan/Pique picture wasn't mentioned?
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_bLwIlCsxnSw/S-Y7ZcjZCeI…

  3. BlackRose says:

    http://twitpic.com/2qmg96/full

    may I just add: purrrrrrrr…

  4. Ryan says:

    This article reminded me of this young man. Hockey is considered a very homophobic sport in North American and what this guy did was very brave and should be considered admirable to both gay and straight people (like myself). Unfortunately, he was tragically killed in a car accident months later.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brendan_Burke

  5. BlackRose says:

    I'm all for gay footballers. In fact, I'm always trying to make my gaydar work when watching a game. I'm a passionate follower and supporter of particular footie bromances, Two hotties having the hots for each other, what's not to love. Seriously.

    Sadly, I guess I'll never see the glorious day when a football star can actually come out and be open about his sexuality. That leaves plenty of room for my obsessive speculation and sexual fantasies, but it's further proof that society still needs much improvement in certain areas.

    Kudos to Gareth Thomas, über-masculine and fabulous.

  6. Kilani says:

    This guy rocks!

  7. Leya_S says:

    I know that kickette is heavily populated by female readers, but I just wanted to say that I really enjoy the comments and insight on here from our fellow male readers, both gay and straight!! It's nice to get the male perspective on this issue as one could argue that it affects men a little more than women.

    Thanks guys!

  8. [...] friends at Kickette posted an inspiring editorial addressing homophobia both on the pitch and in the stands, as well as the lack of openly gay [...]

  9. Leya_S says:

    I'm curious to know what you disagree with in homosexuality? I'm interested to hear your feelings and opinions to understand your thinking.

  10. Emme says:

    Thanks for posting this, Kickette! I have not had the opportunity to read all of the comments yet, so I hope I do not reiterate too much of what others have said. Homophobia is a huge problem in all sports. I cannot think of hardly any openly gay elite athletes in any sport, so I admire the courage of Gareth to come out and be himself. Does anyone remember in the film 'Milk' when Harvey Milk tells everyone at a meeting that the best way to refute stereotypes is to come out. I know it is easier said than done, but I think there are so many people who have no exposure to gay people that they do not realize that they are just normal people. Maybe someone very famous coming out would help. Again, easier said than done. I just wish people would think more before they speak and treat others the way they would wanted to be treated themselves.

    One more thing – it does not help that in the U.S., soccer/football is hardly even considered a macho sport. Growing up, people would always say it was a 'gay' sport and call players 'lawn fairies'. I do not hear that so much now, but people definitely had that attitude – especially in more rural areas. Sorry this is so long! :)

  11. Julie says:

    What a great article. Michael Ballack's agent has been stirring up controversy by claiming there's a "gay combo" and/or homosexual conspiracy (!) in the German NT that's responsible for them not playing like "real" Germans. As if somehow third place in the World Cup was a dreadful showing or something. It's painfully clear that the football world just isn't ready for out players.

    • Leya_S says:

      Well that's just plain dumb.

      Although I am a HUGE fan of the Schweinski bromance!!! However, Lukas is getting (got?) married, and I think Bastian has a gf (not that that necessarily means anything…and I'm definitely not speculating anything here, just giving an example). But even if it were the case that some members of the team were gay, once again, as said numerous times before, it shouldn't matter, and that most certainly would not affect their playing.

      And on THAT note, idk if I mentioned this earlier, but I LOVE bromances!
      Something about seeing boys affectionate and genuinely happy with each other on the pitch warms my heart. I think the camaraderie between players is a beautiful thing. It literally makes me smile every time to see players hugging, just bc I know that they're super-excited to win, score a goal, play well, or just to be playing the sport they love with their friends.

      Even C-Ron, who, in general, I can't stand, seeing his bromance with Kaka always makes me go, "awwww!!"

  12. queer_reader_of_kickette says:

    great post! many thanks. as someone who plays soccer(and works construction) and is queer i just wanna say that this is wonderful to read and i’m loving most of the comments as well which is an added bonus. thanks again.

  13. Daniela says:

    As much as we all might wish for homophobia and hate crime to stop in the beautiful game I think we'll still have to wait years for it to happen.
    Personally, the more I think about this subject the more I believe it's become an issue of miscommunication. between the media, fans, and the business side of football. older fans ('traditional fans') are seen as being homophobic therefore it would not be wise for a sponsor to support and stand behind a homosexual player. it wouldn't be good for business. but on the other hand the world is changing so fast and more people are realizing that someone's sexual orientation doesn't matter.
    now it's just a matter of us waiting and the players deciding whether they want to come out or not. but i think they would come out if they realize that fans, club, and sponsors, stand behind them.

  14. Do you know what i dont get that in this day and age people have to worry what other's think of them regarding their sexuality. I mean what is it to people who a person likes whether it's men or women, its none of our business. People need to look closer to home and stop this stupid judgemental mentality everyone has. If a man likes another man he should not have to come public and state to to the world WHY who he dating and be in FEAR of the backlash and should freely go out in public like a normal couple like a man and a woman would do. People need to step away from the STONE AGES and realise times have changed, why cant we as people look beyond someone's sexuality and see them as a PERSON, the last time i checked we humans were all EQUAL.

    Eurgh and another thing why do some people think that just because there is a gay/lesbian sharing the locker room/showers autamatically means theyve been checking the team out, or fantasied about them….PEOPLE NEED TO GET OF THEIR HIGH HORSES and realise your NOT ALL THAT! Some people need a good reality check for real.

  15. mamaly says:

    This breaks my heart
    2010, and no wiser http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/fail/42083/gay-foo…

  16. JBeeMe says:

    Yeah, it’s rarely women and gay/bi men who like football/sport that have to be convinced. It’s the leagues of straight men teaching their male children to be homophobes because they’ve had it instilled into them too. I have said this elsewhere but education on this matter needs to start in schools because this is where bullying and alienation/picking sides starts. It’s not as bad in the UK as it once was, and I’ve seen some really cool guys (straight guys) on football forums stand up for gays but the European league fans can be vicious and vile, saying things like ‘kill gays’ and ‘no gay players on our team’. I think the mentality across Europe can be very hostile and because players move round so much they could go from a gay-friendly place to a very hostile one for their job which is why they are advised not to come out.

    And top-class players like Zlatan saying ‘fag’ does NOTHING to help either. XX :)

  17. Lola says:

    Thanks for writing this Kickette!

    I agree with the above comment I think. If a player came out now, for the rest of his career he would be known as 'that gay player'. Even if he won the Ballon D'Or, they would say 'that gay player won it'. So I suspect it's not necessarily just the homophobia stopping them from coming out, it's also all the attention that it would take away from their actual playing ability.
    It would be eally great if a former player could come out, but so strange that it hasn't happened yet??

  18. Andrea V says:

    Very interesting article!

    I am ambivalent about a gay footballer's coming out.
    On the one hand I think if it's possible in Rugby, why not in foorball? But: the coming out was after the player's career.
    So maybe it would help if a former football star would come out, I'm sure there are some.

    For a currently active footballer I wouldn't recommend it because he and his team would really have to suffer, it could even become dangerous for him.
    Certainly I wouldn't have any problem knowing that player <name> is gay. Maybe we women in general are more liberal about that kind of things. But I also have male (straight) fans, who wouldn't see any problem in that. But here in Germany nowadays the society is quite liberal.

    But as I said before, at the moment I wouldn't reccomend a coming out for a currently active player.
    On the other hand I would be more than happy if a former football star would come out. That would open the doors for more open-mindness.
    In general it is sad that in the 21st century gay footballers still have to lead a double-life.

  19. AJay says:

    Question: Can you disagree with homosexuality and NOT be homophobic? It just seems as though if you don't agree or understand the lifestyle people are quick to say you hate it and hate them. Which is not true at all.

    Needless to say, it takes tremendous courage and vulnerablity to come out and that is to be commended.
    And thanks kickette for addressing the issue. Definitely a topic that should be discussed.

    • Zparkle says:

      Well, in my opinion "disagreeing" with homosexuality would imply that you have some kind of antipathy to it in some degree ("It's not natural"), or feel uncomfortable with gay people for whatever reason ("She's gay, does that mean she'll make a move on me?"), or harbor some kind of predjudice against it ("It's a choice/It can be cured"). You can "disagree" with the gay lifestyle and at the same time not hate gay people (because hate is a strong word), but by definition you would still be homophobic.

    • colorlessblue says:

      No. You can't disagree with homosexuality because homosexuality isn't an opinion. If I saw I like red more than yellow, you can disagree with me and say that you like yellow more than red. If I say I'm sexually or romantically attracted to people of my own gender, the most you can say is "Well, I'm attracted to people of the opposite gender". When people say they disagree with homosexuality, that's not what they mean. What they mean is that they disagree with either the fact that non-heterosexual people exist, or they know non-het people exist but think they shouldn't. Either of these is homophobic.

    • Cherryboomboom , you may not "hate" people who are different from you, but you can't disagree with some one's identity without showing some degree of fear or irrational prejudice. You can't "disagree" with race or gender. I'm glad to see the ladies on the thread have said it better.

    • EnglandRoxx says:

      It's not a 'lifestyle'.

      Straight people should not need to look down their noses and 'agree' or 'disagree'. Where did this concept of 'agreeing' come from anyway?

      Gay people are there just as straight people are there.

  20. eatmyboost says:

    I was pleased that people in both codes of rugby were so cool about it when Gareth Thomas came out. Football can learn from this. Iker and Becks have both publically condemned homophobia but many other people in football need to change their attitudes.

  21. Dreamgirl says:

    Fantastic post Kickette. It's about time this issue is more widely discussed. It is a crying shame that we find ourselves in 2010 and still question people's rights to express their sexuality. I fear however that football is a very long way from accepting gay players. Good luck to to Gareth Thomas. That was a braver move than any rugby tackle could ever be.

  22. cherryboomboom says:

    Okay .. i am not homophobic .. but I actually understand why other people are .
    I mean imagine , the guys take showers together naked and stuff . imagine the figure out that they guy they ve been having a shower with for two years could have possibly thought of making a move on them ! Ew..

    I mean imagine girls , your in a dressing room with a chick and you never suspected her .. and then you find out she is a lesbian .. I mean wont you freak out ?!?!

    • Zparkle says:

      You actually sound a little homophobic, tbh: "Definitions refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, and irrational fear" <—- Emphasis on "irrational fear". And why would you assume that any homosexual person within your vicinity would automatically want to be with you? Isn't that a little presumptuous? I'd take it as a compliment and move on. Not a big deal.

    • MadridistaJenn says:

      It wouldn't freak me out if the chick in the dressing room was a lesbian because I'm probably not her type and I'm secure enough to place boundaries when I feel uncomfortable. And that goes to burst the "making a move on them" myth as well. Not every gay man or lesbian woman will pounce on the first naked body they see. Its a common misconception that is rarely true. The only place where that is true is in jail house smut films.

      • Jules says:

        Thank you, Jenn! One of the most annoying stereotypes of gay people (in particular gay men) is that they're oversexed and think of nothing except forcing themselves on an unsuspecting straight person.

    • c8h10n4o2 says:

      Been there, done that. I actually knew that there was at least one lesbian on my team. Nobody jumped me because they knew that I'm hetero and honestly not interested. I've only had trouble with one lesbian pursuing me past the point where I said "I'm straight" and, to paraphrase Eddie Izzard, that was a crazy wierdo lesbian. The vast majority of homosexuals don't want to bother chasing the completely uninterested.

    • Nate says:

      This is where education comes in. Well and common sense would help but, seriously just because someone is gay does not mean EVERY single guy they see turns them on. This is the biggest issues ignorance breeds. A gay professional is capable of going about the business in their working environment without trying to ogle or "make a move" on a co-worker.

      It is stereotypical homophobia to think that any gay guy automatically wants any straight guy they see, and if a gay guy is in the shower with a straight guy of course they would be staring right? WRONG. Being gay doesn't automatically make you a pervert or make you unprofessional. It is completely silly and narcissistic to think any gay guy will obviously be attracted to you and want to check you out. If people would just use more common sense and not be so silly and simpleminded, it would go a long way in not having people have to hide who they are to avoid this type of ignorance.

    • LuvinBale says:

      WOW! Someone must think rather highly of themselves if they think that every gay/lesbian person out there is after them. Just because they've seen you naked doesnt mean you have what they want.

      And to answer your question- NO- it doesnt freak me out because its happened to me before. I play soccer and my friend D plays Rugby and we have both experienced nasty homophobic slurs in our time. We are straight women who still get called D*kes (excuse me for the use of this word- its only to make a point) because we play sports. Im not gay I am highly offended by the word.
      I wait for the day that a footballer comes out!!! I would back he/she 100%!!!

    • Leya_S says:

      Okay, I want to start by saying that you might want to come to terms with the fact that you may in fact be slightly homophobic.

      Two: If I was in a dressing room with a girl and found out that she was a lesbian, a) I wouldn't care, b) it doesn't mean she immediately wants to get with me, and c) if she did want to hit this, I would politely decline but I'd be totally flattered!! Not every guy thinks you're hot, and not every girl does either, so if someone does, it's a compliment.

      c) If you're a guy and a girl thinks you're hot, it's awesome. But does that mean immediately that she's going to corner you and demand sex from you? Doubt it. If you're a woman and a guy thinks you're hot, is he immediately going to rape you? Possible, but most of the time not.

      and Quattro: You're a professional straight male footballer. You find out some guy on your team is gay. You've been showering with the guy for like the last four years, and yes, its true that maybe he may have thought about you in some intimate capacity and he might have thought about making a move on you. But he didn't. In four years. And he's been gay all four of those years. And probably longer. So now that YOU know he's gay, how does it change the fact that he's NEVER made a move on you and he most likely never will?!

      Hopefully you can see the double standards and serious misconceptions of your statement?

      Just my thoughts…

      • cherryboomboom says:

        Okay okay , people I'm sorry and I understand .
        After reading all your comments , I understand why the way I think is wrong . t's because I come from a place were gayness isnt really tolerated and well were it is a bad and unormal thing . So we are not open minded about these kinds of things .
        Now that I see other people's opinion and really understand what homosexuality is really all about and why its ridiculous to fear , hate , or disagree with gay people .
        I'm really sorry If I offended anyone or If was too stupid/ignorant for them.
        I'm really sorry .

        .. peace ? :)

  23. Ines del Sol says:

    I'm really happy that Kickette is supporting #redcardhomophobia <3

  24. Karencorh says:

    JUSTIN FASHANU was the first professional footballer to come out as gay.In 1990, he publicly came out as gay in an interview with the tabloid press, becoming the only prominent player in English football so far to do so. in 1998 he was questioned by police when a seventeen-year-old boy accused him of sexual assault. Fashanu committed suicide in May of that year, his suicide note reportedly claiming that the sex was consensual.In his suicide note, he stated: “I realised that I had already been presumed guilty. I do not want to give any more embarrassment to my friends and family. An inquest in London, held on 9 September 1998, heard that there was in fact no warrant out for Fashanu’s arrest and that the American police had already dropped the investigation because of lack of evidence. FASHANU WAS HOMOPHOOBIA VICTIM DURING SEVERAL YEARS WHEN SHE WAS PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLER. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Fashanu

  25. EternalDreamer says:

    Can we thumbs up this article? Precluding people based on perception is common (based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), and as a few have stated, it may take some time for perceptions to be changed, but it has to start somewhere and a calling attention to the topic through forums such as this is one way to start.

  26. snicklefritzer says:

    Thank you Kickette ladies for posting this. It's nice to see that one of my favorite sites is not only aware of homophobia in football but is willing to discuss it. As a gay man who loves both the men and the sport equally, I find it so disheartening that football players feel like that need to be in the closet during their career. As someone who played football in High School, it would've been awesome to have a role model in the sport that made it ok to be gay and an athlete. Thanks again for posting and I will forever be checking your website, multiple times a day.

    Cheers!!!

  27. Georgina Sanders says:

    "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." – LOL!! I aboslutely loved this line..

    Certfied 'Hag' here (*raises arm*) so I'm supportive of anything that's anti-homophobia. I absolutely love hanging out with my girl and gay friends when watching football rather than my straight guy friends. It has that vibe that I can be who I want to be without getting disgusted stares from men because I squealed too loud and disrupted the 'macho' atmosphere. That's because gay men are extremely fabulous and as snarky as us, fellow Kickettes, when it comes to critiquing men and their wags.

    Go Red Card Homophobia!

  28. @ferlahm says:

    Girls, I loved this article, this was amazing. Gay is the way girls! x

  29. @AgnesWonka says:

    what football needs is a big star coming out of the closet! maybe some other gay players will follow him.

  30. jgthorington says:

    As a straight man, lover of football and someone who believes in equality, I thank you for this post.

  31. Handball is a very big sport in Denmark and it's been famous for having a lot of lesbians on the team. It is completely open and everybody know who is dating who. Even my mum knew it, We were watching the world cup with Denmark and she was pointing at some players telling me who they were dating, to the question how she knew " it's its just tomething you know".
    But I guess it's different when it comes to men. Lesbians are somewhat more acceptable. I remember talking to my dad after watching Brokeback mountain and my dad was all grossed out about it being a film about gays, " but I dont mind if its 2 women!" it's nice to have standards, double standards are way nicer.

  32. Kc95 says:

    Thank you for this Kickette. This is why I've opted to watch Football with my female friends , as opposed to my male ones. They're boundries (I speak for my friends, and not the male race) are so closed and narrow. It's particularly bad when we watch Real Madrid games, since most of them are Barca fans, and eventually, comments will sneak in like "These boys are just a group of f*gs, no wonder Barca beats them every year, that's a group of real men." The comments are mainly focused on Sergio and Cris. I hate that something like a man's sexuality or looks are held against him in a game as wonderful as Football.
    And I'm so proud of Garret Thomas, a lot of people say that coming out when your career is prime is bad for it. I love that he isn't compromising himself for others.

  33. Zinny says:

    It's all been said in the comments already but I commend you for this kickette.

    The beautiful game is beautiful because it is for EVERYONE. I can't even describe how amazing football is because it unites us all; it makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger. Homophobia has no place in football or in the world.

  34. @shopgirl157 says:

    Hey, this was a greta piece and I really enjoyed reading it. These are very important issues and it annoys me so much that in 2010 players still have to hide their sexual identity because of the fear it might make their lives a living hell and hurt their career.

    I also wanted to thank you so much fr mentioning the Red Card Homophobia campaign which we started about a wekk ago. This is amaizng, thank you. (:

  35. D0li says:

    I am not sure who this guy is, but i commend his courage for coming out and being a role model for gay men everywhere. Although I wish more players would come out of the closet, i fear that his courage will backlash as many newspapers will have sympathy for his wife as she was "tricked all these years, and being taken advantage of". I can only hope that he does not experience any homophobic attacks/outburts from fans as he tries to live his daily life.

  36. Abigail says:

    Unfortunately it's not the women that have to be convinced :(

  37. gi0ia says:

    An excellent post re a sensitive but very important topic. Been thinking for a minute or two re what to write as a comment, but I simply have nothing to add! :)

  38. hereforthenando says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Kickette. Homophobia is a huge problem in sports, and we can't continue to brush it under the rug and pretend that it isn't real. Of course there are gay footballers; probably a lot more than we would ever think.

    I also like that you mentioned that female fans, in addition to gay fans, are perceived to be unwelcome in football. I think that there is a connection there– sexuality is very often conflated with gender identity, which is a mistake. People decide that Fernando is gay not because he has ever done anything gay, but because he used to have long hair. Homophobia is not only discriminatory towards those who are non-straight, but I would argue that it is also discriminatory towards women in that our gender is devalued as well.

    I'm a women's studies minor, in case anybody didn't note that.

    • chisoxgirl says:

      I totally agree!!!! And thank you for that, it's nice to see women voice their opinion and be brave about it!

    • YouNeverWalkAlone says:

      I know!!!! it was crazy how they thought nando was gay! crazy!

    • D.J says:

      The fernando is gay thing is just a joke really, more because of his feminine appearance at times, kinda like ronaldo is gay speculation, so dont take it seriously.

      but other than that i completely agree with everything you said :)

  39. Yao says:

    Kickette, bravo for writing this!

  40. LouLouToffee says:

    Have finally stopped lurking because I feel so strongly about this issue. It boggles my mind just how outdated the attitudes in Football can be. While there are probably a fair few ‘ballers out there who are thoroughly miserable in the closet, the bigger worry for FIFA should be all of the young players who turn away from the game as a result of the homophobic abuse they realise they would very likely be subject to if they carried on playing.
    At just about the time kids may be realising that they are gay, they are also in a key stage of their footballing development. How many kids with the potential to be world-class top-level players have decided to quit when they have realised they can be openly gay or a professional footballer, but not both unless they want to face abuse from fans? Given just how rare genuine game-changing talent is, no genuine fan should ever want to deny anyone the opportunity to become the next Messi, Maradona or Best. If we do, we are all poorer for it.
    Phew, got that off my chest. Now, where did I put my drink?

  41. Gina6982 says:

    Kickette, this is why I <3 you!

    I laughed out loud at the watching some idiot tell Gareth Thomas he's less of a man or less of a player because he's gay. And appreciating the love of bromances.

    But in all seriousness, I agree completely with everything you said and am super glad you support RedCard Homophobia! :-)

  42. gin_in_teacups says:

    Thanks for posting this! I'm involved with the Red Card Homophobia efforts over at ontd and I'm really hoping we manage to make some waves! I'd say it's nearly a sure bet that there's at least one or two world class footballers who are closeted. It's really more than time for this stigma to end and for people to see that who you choose to sleep with has nothing to do with how macho you are, and certainly nothing to do with how talented an athlete you are.

  43. The beautiful game should be for everyone: agreed! Let's not forget thatoOne of the things that keeps sexual politics in football in the dark ages of pre-Stonewall closeted shamefests is lack of education and opportunity in a lot of the communities in the world where football rules. If in the US, soccer moms like me drive our cute and often clueless progeny around to games on immaculately groomed grass, the game is most played in favelas and barrios with deflated balls and on packed dirt surfaces. Javier Zanetti and David Villa come from former mining towns in Argentina and Spain respectively. Lionel Messi's mom was a cleaning lady. In a lot of these communities (including Northern England), working class men have seen their ability to make a living wiped out. I hate to get so serous here with the ladies, but a lot of terrible economic factors drive the homophobic machismo of working class men. I think that when the players of the NT's make their declarations against racism at the next world cup, they should also declare themselves against homophobia. Let's see if Sepp Blatter and FIFA can get on board with that.

    • hereforthenando says:

      I completely agree that they should declare themselves against homophobia! What a great suggestion.

    • zztop says:

      Yes, FiFa should do a " no to homophobia" campaign like their " no to racism" campaign. Whatever you think of its effectiveness at least you know where the main governing body stands.

      • FIFA should be told that making a strong statement against homophobia would massively expand their fan base and market — women and gays would come out of the closet as football fans! And the Kickette Army would be the first to help them with their new strategy! P

  44. Lotte (Zlatanista) says:

    Important issue and a great post, Kickette! The ugly face of intolerance and hate is sadly showing itself too often in the world of football. I don´t know where the fear comes from. I have two small sons and i am trying my best to teach them that everybody has the right to live and love the way they choose. It´s sad but at a very early age, kids use the word "gay" to describe someone they see as weak or "different" . Because of this it would be great if the if FIFA or some other party could show some guts and take a stand, just like in the non-racism initiative. I´m not so naive that i think things would change overnight, but football is the biggest sport in the world and it would have a huge impact.

  45. bumbleduckie says:

    There's 'give racism the red card', so give homophobia the red card too! For that matter, give those fat mysoginistic geezers red cards as well! My cojones are bigger than theirs anyway, so I can give it to the best of them.
    Sigh…my ex-gay boyfriend and used to argue which of our 'baller was hotter, those were the days.

  46. tammyv says:

    I think that was the guy sang with and sat next at an Oasis concert in LA a couple of years ago… he was awesome. His boyfriend was adorable too. He has my immense respect for this

    and kickette – I agree with everything you said.

  47. BarceLisa says:

    Football and a lot of sports seem to turn reasonable, level-headed men into neanderthals. In football's case, this is called being a 90-minute bigot. However much some men claim to be free of prejudice, as soon as the referee blows his whistle, supporters' true character comes out. We all see it week in week out. Any game where two rivals face off, if the camera shows a close up of the crowd during a controversial moment, one group of supporters is jumping up and down, shouting god-knows-what at the referee and the nearest rival player. We have all seen the animosity and absolute contempt on their faces, the thousands of them. And we wonder why would a gay footballer come out of the closet, If this is the reception (supposedly) non-gay players get? Its a shame really. Since we have successfully managed to Kick Out Racism from football (in the UK anyway) it should not be taking this long for homophobia.

  48. Leá says:

    I think it's great that you guys are posting this, and starting a discussion amongst fans. I'll piggy back what a lot of Liverpool fans have been doing lately. "Being Gay is No Reason to Walk Alone." I'm all for players being able to be open about their sexuality while they're still playing, and for fans to feel free to be themselves while they are watching.

  49. Devon says:

    De-lurking to say thanks. Although sometimes it's tough to defend being a footie fan (particularly in the largely soccer-less wasteland of Canada), knowing that there's a big, supportive community of fans working to make the sport better is incredibly inspiring. Here's hoping that the Red Card Homophobia campaign is a huge success.

  50. zztop says:

    Isn't there a spanish player named Xisco who plays in Scotland who is probably gay ( he's not officially out in public ).

    It's horrible the way players are taunted. It's no wonder Guti has such a short fuse. The definition of male heterosexuality is so narrow and rigid I feel sorry for men. I always thougt Guti was straight like David Bowie and it's a shame some "fans" don't see hoe beautiful that is.

  51. Sadly, as long as little boys in playgrounds are putting each other down by yelling "you're gay" and "faggot", there's no hope for acceptance of homosexuality by the majority of football fans. Go to any football match anywhere in the world any weekend and you will hear horrible insults involving race, ethnicity, religion and sex – things people would never say to each other on the street. Small progress is being made but very slowly.
    I'm sure players know other players who are gay, and I suspect that in many cases, they try to protect them by staying silent and helping to maintain a facade. It's very sad but I don't think it will change any time soon.

  52. “Truth is, the first footballer to come out of the closet would find himself at the centre of a massive media storm.”
    Already happened, and it was awful without a happy ending. In Brazil, in 2007, there was the “Richarlyson affair”. From Wikipedia:
    ” On June 25, 2007, the newspaper Agora reported that a football player of a major team would come out of the closet in an exclusive interview with Rede Globo’s newsmagazine Fantástico. The following day, Brazilian sports commentator Milton Neves hosted Palmeiras director José Cyrillo Júnior on his live TV show Debate Bola. Neves asked Cyrillo if the player who was coming out was from his team. Cyrillo replied: “No, even though Richarlyson was almost signed by Palmeiras… but Palmeiras will never have a gay player in the squad!”.
    Richarlyson’s attorney, Renato Salge, per his client’s request, filed a legal complaint against Cyrillo. Nevertheless, Judge Manoel Maximiano Junqueira Filho dismissed the complaint, stating that football is a “virile, masculine sport and not a homosexual one” and that, on those grounds, “Richarlyson should be forever banished by FIFA and never be allowed to play football again”. He suggested that a homosexual player should leave the team or start one of his own. The judge was given fifteen days to explain himself to the Justice Council of São Paulo. Salge also filed a complaint against the judge.”

    I don’t remember much about it because it happened in a busy time when I wasn’t paying attention to the media, but all I remember was snark and giggles from people who’d say stuff like “Of course the judge is an idiot, ut haha, he’s gay. LOL.” As if they were any better. People seem to think it’s only bigotry if they’re yelling or being violent, and let a ton of more subtle but much damaging stuff pass by.

  53. SylviaC1 says:

    ..I'd find it cute if a footballer came out that he was gay ^^ I'd be like,, awww..!!! ^^

  54. colorlessblue says:

    "Truth is, the first footballer to come out of the closet would find himself at the centre of a massive media storm."
    Already happened, and it was awful without a happy ending. In Brazil, in 2007, there was the "Richarlyson affair". From Wikipedia:

    " On June 25, 2007, the newspaper Agora reported that a football player of a major team would come out of the closet in an exclusive interview with Rede Globo's newsmagazine Fantástico. The following day, Brazilian sports commentator Milton Neves hosted Palmeiras director José Cyrillo Júnior on his live TV show Debate Bola. Neves asked Cyrillo if the player who was coming out was from his team. Cyrillo replied: "No, even though Richarlyson was almost signed by Palmeiras… but Palmeiras will never have a gay player in the squad!".
    Richarlyson's attorney, Renato Salge, per his client's request, filed a legal complaint against Cyrillo. Nevertheless, Judge Manoel Maximiano Junqueira Filho dismissed the complaint, stating that football is a "virile, masculine sport and not a homosexual one" and that, on those grounds, "Richarlyson should be forever banished by FIFA and never be allowed to play football again". He suggested that a homosexual player should leave the team or start one of his own. The judge was given fifteen days to explain himself to the Justice Council of São Paulo. Salge also filed a complaint against the judge."

    • c8h10n4o2 says:

      Sadly, this doesn't surprise me that much. It sickens and saddens me, but my eyebrow never raised. I lived in Brazil as a kid, and the "macho" attitude that was the rule was horrifying. It was the 70s, but it can take a long time for cultural attitudes to switch from "women are property, and a husband can basically do whatever he likes with his wife and/or daughters" (which may not have been letter-of-the-law, but was completely true in practice) and "gay men should be stoned in the streets" (see the above parenthetical).

      There's a reason that the numerous Brazilian women who now live around me (and who have pretty much all married American men) have told me that if I ever even considered dating a Brazilian man that they would kidnap me to keep me away from him. Luckily, most Brazilian men have no interest, since I come across as a total ball-buster out of the gate. It weeds out the jackhats who want someone subservient.

      • colorlessblue says:

        That actually sounds terrible, you know. People in USA tend to have this idea of Brazil as if we were just Rio de Janeiro and the jungle and everybody is primitive. In fact the similarities between Brazilian culture and USian culture are bigger than the differences (and honestly in many of the differences, I'd rather take the Brazilian version.) Yes, there are many sexist and homophobic men in Brazil. Same in USA.
        I've dated *a lot* of Brazilian men, and while a few were idiots, most were normal, great guys. The exceptions were idiots due to their personalities, not their culture (each of the idiots was an idiot for a different reason). I've also dated a few foreign men, and lived abroad and visited many other countries.
        I've never dated any USian guy, but I know a few that are great friends. The ones who approached me for something else, though? Half of them started off from calling me a whore and asking me how much, based only on the fact that I'm Brazilian, and the other half started right from telling me that they're looking for a Brazilian wife because women's lib hasn't arrived here yet to ruin us, and that Brazilian women knew how to value a husband and were great cookers. The ones I let go on talking went so far as to tell me that the blood mix of black + latina makes Brazilian women hypersexed and the Catholicism makes us decent so we'd be great in bed but not stray.
        I could just say that based on my personal experiences USian men are all sexist, racist pigs, and based on what I see on the news they're homophobes too. Instead I say that, like every country in the world, there's good and bad people.

      • ohme says:

        wow. goob job generalizing a whole country based on "the numerous brazilian women who now live around you" and 70's! I could say a lot of things about the US based on my dating experiences in the 80s, but I wouldn't be close minded enough to assume nothing has changed in the past 20 years or that "a few people I know" = EVERYONE.

  55. Blake says:

    As a gay guy myself, it's a shame we don't have any openly gay footballers in the game. I'm much too young to remember Fashanu so I've never known any in the past.

    I love football, for the sport, not just for the sexy players, and it's very annoying to hear people saying homophobic things. Now, I'm not speculating AT ALL here when i say this, but what if Lionel Messi came out as gay. Would that stop him being the best player in the world for the last two years? No. Would it affect him in the future? Possibly, but probably because of the media. He'd still have his ability.

    Other sportstars have been accepted, Gareth Thomas a prime example and Aussie Diver Matt Mitcham, yes he lost sponsorship deals but it didn't stop him winning a gold medal in Beijing.

    I hope that sometime soon that a player will come out, not that it's any of our business who he's attracted to or not. He gets paid for being a good footballer, gay or straight, white or black. But until one player bites the bullet and does so, I don't believe homophobia in football will ever stop.

    The media would certainly not help at all. It's their job to screw up player's lives off the pitch apparently.

    It's very sad indeed.

    I'd love to know a gay footballer who is happy about who he is and someone who fellow gay men can look up to. It might encourage more people into football, young teens who are put off because of the homophobic abuse they could face if anyone ever found out about their sexuality.

    The stereotypes annoy me so much too "if you're a man and you don't like football, then you're gay" and "gay people don't like football, they like girly things" etc. Its so frustrating. I'm gay, and I love football. What's the problem? I wont lie in saying that I don't like the players too, cos I do. I mean, I'm totally in love with Gareth Bale! That's just a bonus! My point is, people need to realise that gay people can love football just as much as a straight guy. I do.

    It's so pathetic that people still feel the need to be homophobic in football, in any sport for that matter. It's time for that to change. I hope that in the near future gay people will be accepted in this great sport.

  56. Kylie says:

    I definitely support the idea of anti-homophobia in football (as well as just in general), but sexual orientation is personal and therefore, there shouldn't even be an issue of a footballer (or anyone) "coming out". Why even have to "come out"/discuss it? It is a non issue when it comes to their job as a football player so I don't think it's something that needs to be announced or dealt with in a public way. I applaud Gareth Thomas for his courageous declaration, but it shouldn't be necessary. Somehow society (and the media, especially) always seems to think otherwise.

    • Lotte (Zlatanista) says:

      I agree with you that it should not even be necessary to "come out". It shouldn´t have to be an issue.

    • Liz says:

      Great Post!

      I don't see why it should be an issue at all really, their personal lives are completely seperate to their 'jobs'. We've seen a HUGE change in Racism in Football over the last 10 years, it's a slow progress but hopefully the wheels are also set in motion for this :)

    • sarrible says:

      It's necessary for people to come out, and famous people in particular, because it helps change attitudes. There's been research done here in the US that the biggest influence on changing people's ideas about gay people (and their opinions on gay marriage, gay adoption, and other issues like second-partner adoption and partner benefits) is knowing a gay person personally. People identify with their sports heroes, and knowing that a favorite footballer is gay could influence a lot of opinions. It's also important for gay kids growing up to see gay people in all kinds of jobs, not just performers, but lawyers, firefighters, footballers, etc. Here's a little more from the awesome columnist Dan Savage about why coming out is important.

      • Kylie says:

        Good point! I was just looking at it like, as long as media/society treats homosexuality as newsworthy or something that should be announced, it will continue to be viewed as something that is abnormal or unacceptable. But I can definitely see this side of the debate as well.

    • Dre says:

      Because everyone should have the right to live their lives any way they want to without having to apologize to the most prejudiced elements of society. It's normal for us to see pictures of footballers and WAGs. They're living their lives like any other person. Gay footballers can't do that, as they'd be shamed everywhere.
      I agree that it shouldn't even be an issue, but unfortunately, we still haven't reached that point.

    • Leya_S says:

      I agree that sexual orientation is a very personal issue, and doesn't have to be dealt with in public.

      HOWEVER, I think the point of this is a little more about the fact that if a player WANTED to come out, they couldn't because of the backlash and reaction that could potentially come from the media. No one should have to come out and talk about their sexual preferences and personal life if they don't want to. But the public obsession with celebrities and public figures and their significant others is not limited to just homosexuals; I'm not saying its right, but it comes with the territory when you're famous for whatever reason. That being said, athletes are very public figures, and if some high-profile player was photographed with his boyfriend, he shouldn't have to hide and spend time trying to deny his sexual orientation.

      In short, everyone should be able to love who they love when and where they want.

  57. daryl says:

    "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."

    Ha, great line. But it also gets at something in football. It would take a very very tough guy to come out and put themselves at the center of that storm, and to maintain a high level of on-field performance at the same time. I think whatever positive pressures and reform come from outside the game, football is really just waiting for that one player with a mentality and self-confidence big enough to come out and handle what comes next.

  58. Erin says:

    Well said, Kickette. Sport in general seems to be somewhat of a last bastion for homophobia. I have no doubt that with the great number of men involved in a sport like football around the world, there are many closeted gay men in their ranks. I think that probably even more than the reaction from colleagues, gay footballers fear the backlash of supporters. When we still hear racist chants and gay slurs to this day, it's not a very welcoming arena. I sincerely hope that sport is advancing in this area, maybe just a bit behind the rest of the world. Strong, brave men like Gareth Thomas will pave the way. He is to be supported and commended!

  59. lady_quark says:

    Always amazing to see what awesomeness ontd can actually produce beside all the hilarious crap.
    Unusual serious article on here, but I do wholeheartedly approve of this. :D

    #redcardhomophobia

  60. CuppyCake says:

    I follow rugby union as well as football, and I think it says a lot that a more "masculine" sport like RU has seen high-profile players and even referees come out with huge support; while football still lives in the dark ages.

    I don't see anything wrong with having gay people involved in football and it shouldn't be that big a deal.

  61. LoseThatGirl says:

    I think it's wonderful that Gareth has come out. It's a really difficult decision and as he found out with the cruel chants hurled his way, not everyone is as understanding or supportive. Kudos to his teammates who were on his side — that's great to see. I doubt any football players will make a similar declaration anytime soon. Shame, really that people can't publicly be who they really are for fear of verbal or even physical abuse.

    Great post, Kickette – really well done.