Why aren’t we talking about homophobia in football?

Ben Mountain

‘Let’s talk about sexuality, baby’ should have been how Salt-N-Pepa sang their raunchy 90s hit. Perhaps then we could have played it at football stadiums. Something’s got to be done, after all.

In England, we’ve come a long way from the days when being homosexual was illegal. Shockingly, those days were only 50 years ago. But, since then, we have progressed and caught-up somewhat with the times.

Not far enough, admittedly, but we have seen a great deal of change.

Openly homosexual public figures fill our screens, radios and newspapers on a daily basis. And, quite rightly, no one bats an eyelid.

Only there’s one sphere in our lives that’s still lagging far behind the rest. You guessed it, it’s our old friend football.

For some bizarre reason, football is a sport with great big shackles chaining it to a bygone past. The sort of time when men grunted and women kept silent. The sort of time where there were no cities or houses around. And the sort of time when being homosexual was considered unacceptable.

Football, despite all its glories, is still rampantly homophobic. But we don’t seem to care.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, a small group of English thugs dropped their plastic chairs in preference for bananas. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then. Whilst there’s still some way to go, racism in English football is now rightly seen as outrageous, backwards and unwanted. So why do we condone the casual homophobia?

Having taken massive steps forward to increase racial equality and improve women’s football, what is it about homosexuality that makes football as a sport recoil? For some reason, we almost shy away when confronting homophobia is raised. It’s the last real prejudice being clung onto.

Even in 2017, it’s not possible to go and watch a game without hearing some sort of pejorative drivel being slurred from the mouth of a knuckle-dragging cretin. Sadly, it all goes unnoticed. Said knuckle-dragger and the rest of his Addams Family friends probably chuckle merrily when calling players ‘poofs’, ‘tarts’ and worse.

Should they reflect those expressions racially, they’d be rightly shunned in a heartbeat. But, homophobically, good on ya, lad.

Homosexuality in football is taboo. In the UK, about 2.1% of people consider themselves not to be heterosexual. That means that out of the 20/25-man squads in the Premier League, there is statistically around 10 non-heterosexual players each season.

In reality, there have been 10 openly gay footballers across all professional English football leagues ever. And only four of those were ‘out’ during their careers.

That’s a disgrace to the sport.

The nonsensical and illogical crap that litters football is such that footballers simply cannot come out. The first player to do so, Justin Fashanu, eventually committed suicide. Now there’s a damning indictment if ever we’ve seen one.

And this homophobia hasn’t improved from then.

We revealed last week that the third most common word used to describe Brighton and Hove Albion was, in fact, ‘gay’. Jesus Christ.

As if labelling something as ‘gay’ wasn’t just puerile, it’s inflammatory and derogatory, too.

Furthermore, the FA proudly sport that ‘82% of fans would have no issue with a gay footballer at their club’.

Great. But 82% means that 18% of fans would. That’s almost one in five. Or over 16,000 fans in a full Wembley Stadium. Jesus Christ.

It gets worse. Luiz Felipe Scolari said he’d throw a player out of the dressing room if they were gay. Rio Ferdinand stated live on radio “that is not my game, talking about going out with geezers… You’re a fag**t” when jokingly asked if he’d rather date Paul Scholes or Alan Smith.

Djibril Cissé claimed that he doesn’t kiss teammates in celebration for fear of being called gay. Not one player agreed to endorse an anti-homophobia FA video in 2010.

The PR mogul, Max Clifford, has been approached by two Premier League clubs to give them a ‘straight image’ and he advises homosexual players to stay closeted because “it’s a fact that homophobia in football is as strong now as it was 10 years ago.”

“I think being openly gay would be something very difficult to live with in football…. You can get drunk and beat up your wife and that’s quite acceptable, but if someone were to say ‘I’m gay’, it’s considered awful. It’s ridiculous.” Alan Smith

Need we go on?

Homophobia is there for all to see in football and yet we all sweep its presence happily under the carpet. For something as natural as homosexuality – something that bares no difference upon anyone else’s life, may we add – the glorious sport of football offers the most unnatural of reactions.

In a world where homophobia is being suffocated out of existence, why is it the powerful weapon of football that still champions its use?

With football being a tool that can change the views of millions at a time, why haven’t we harnessed its power to improve the lives of those around us?

It’s time to stop being so fearful of confronting homophobia in football. It’s time to ditch the macho-bollocks act and accept something we should have all embraced decades ago.

Homophobia is a raging elephant in a dark, dark room for football and we need to hunt it down.

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