Apparently I haven’t already blogged about this, which surprises me. I watched the Amal Fashanu documentary about her uncle, Justin Fashanu, who was the first footballer to come out, and later committed suicide. It surprises me that I don’t remember it because I really liked football in the late 90s.
Anyway, the programme disappointed me slightly: I think I was expecting something a bit more hard-hitting, where she would really get at the system that condones homophobia in football, and sport more generally. But, from the perspective that it was obviously a difficult time for her family, and that she had to ask her dad some difficult questions, I think she was very brave. Amal certainly came across much better than her dad did.
It was really disheartening to see how evasive almost everyone she talked to was, and how difficult it was for her to even get anyone to talk to her. The FA seemed to employ some sort of misguided equality tactics, by sending a woman to speak to her. Because it’s not just a boys’ club, you know, women work there too (maybe they should’ve sent a black woman so they could tick two boxes). And they had to meet outside. Could they not even let into the building and offer her a coffee?!
In fact the (surprisingly) best contributor from the British football world was Joey Barton. Probably the player with the worst reputation in professional football, chastising the industry for its poor attitude towards homosexuality. As well as Joey, Amal also managed to interview the only openly gay footballer in the world: Anton Hysen, in Sweden. You would hope that the positivity he has experienced would encourage others.
I completely understand why footballers and athletes are apprehensive about coming out. It’s a sad state of affairs that they have to be. But I really can’t wrap my head around why people have a problem with homosexuality. Does it really come down to being worried that a gay footballer might fancy his team mate? To not wanting to be looked at in that way? Are they worried that if two footballers on the same team are gay they might start kissing in the changing room? Even if it did happen, that would still be less shocking than what some get up to. And what are the fans worried about?
Apparently this is also an issue in the US, where the You Can Play project takes this stand:
Locker rooms should be safe and sports venues should be free from homophobia. Athletes should be judged on talent, heart and work ethic, not sexual orientation.
The Justin Campaign does similar work in the UK:
The Justin Campaign seeks to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions that exist around LGB & T (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans) people and work towards a future where the visibility of LGB & T people in football is both accepted and celebrated.
I stopped following football a few years ago when I decided that there was no justification for their incredibly high wages, and the Russian oligarchs were taking over at Chelsea, starting the trend of millionaire buy-outs.I switched over to rugby. I’m incredibly proud of Gareth Thomas for being the world’s first openly gay team professional sportsman; and for the rugby industry being so supportive.
I really hope that the visibility this issue is gaining will lead to more people showing their support, so that gay sports people do not have to fear the consequences of coming out.