Football has, for all intents and purposes, always been a man’s game. In England at least, sheer tenacity and grit will earn plenty of plaudits from pundits and fans alike. The sight of two fully-grown men fighting it out for one small spherical object has been something that interested mankind for a long time now.
But, even with all the advancements in both sports science and infrastructure, the game hasn’t changed much since the dawn of time. It is all about 22 men giving their blood, sweat and tears to ensure that their side win. The important thing to note, is the word “men”. And whilst that takes nothing away from women’s football (which is starting to become very popular) that word mainly refers to men, “straight” ones.
Given the exorbitant amount of campaigns that exist, to kick homophobia out, one thing is very clear. Football is, and always have been, a game for men, straight men, to be more precise. Anybody who thinks otherwise is just having a laugh. So, it is no wonder why so few footballers ever come out and disclose the fact that they are “gay”. In fact, in all of its illustrious history that spans centuries, not even single professional footballer has come out and said that he was “gay”, whilst he was playing.
There have been a few, like Thomas Hitzlsperger, who have come once they have hung up their boots. And in an interview earlier this year, the former German midfielder revealed that “there is a long way to go” before there will be an openly gay man playing in the football League. And one can certainly understand why. Given the vitriol that they might be subjected to, most feel that they are better off hiding in the closet.
In December 2012, the largest fan club of FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, Landscrona, published a manifesto that attempted to justify a policy of discriminating against black and gay players. When there are football fans who will go to such lengths to justify their hatred, it is no wonder why most gay footballers feel the need to keep their sexual orientation to themselves.
And it is not just the fans, who have been accused of homophobia in the past, some players too, are guilty of that. Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian defender Alex has a history of disparaging comments about homosexuality. In fact, here is a player, who in January said: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves.”
So, it was not much of a surprise to see him make homophobic comments in an interview with the Swedish paper Expressen. In the aforementioned interview, the Brazilian said that he doesn’t “agree that it is OK that a man lives with another man and a woman with a woman.” After making such an outlandish claim, he even had the guts to say that his comments weren’t homophobic and then added that “everyone has the freedom. If you don’t agree with me and what I believe, and what the Bible says, then that is up to you.”
Whilst his comments certainly aren’t a shock to anyone, it also shows that football is still light years away from accepting homosexuality. Irrespective of the amount of campaigns that say otherwise, until and unless the mindsets of fans and players change, the chances of an active footballer coming out as a gay, is as real as my chances of playing for Manchester United.
With all of the media attention on new technology and touch-line bans, it is time that football, as a whole stood up for itself and embraced a universal truth. And that is, irrespective of whether a player is gay or straight, his sexual orientation has nothing to do with his skills as a footballer. And just because a player is gay, doesn’t mean that he won’t go lunging into tackles.
Football, much like rest of the world, better realize that someone’s sexual orientation shouldn’t take the gloss away from what they are truly capable of. And in an age where managers are given bans for coming out of their touchline, there must be harsher bans for players and fans that make homophobic comments.
Whether Bayern Munich win the Champions League or not, if they aren’t penalized for a homophobic banner that was displayed against Arsenal, that will just show how out of touch, football is, with reality. Football authorities should take a stern stance on the subject and show the world that isn’t fashionable to just makes homophobic comments and even if you do, you won’t get away with it.Published 12 Mar 2014, 22:10 IST