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Time to give homophobia in football the red card

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The ‘anonymous gay footballer’

Last week UK tabloid news company The Sun reported that there is an anonymous gay footballer in the premier league. If this is to be believed then this person is officially the first Premier League player currently playing who is homosexual.

Sadly the footballer wants to keep his identity private as he is afraid of the reaction from the players, fans and the whole footballing community because of his sexuality. He told The Sun:

“Football is not ready for an openly gay player”

Anonymous footballer to The Sun

Although this begs the question as to why? Why isn’t male football ready for a gay man to be apart of the game?

Photo by Nathan Rogerson Unsplash

Game of two halves

This isn’t due to lack of support from the clubs or the FA (Football Association). They have shown clear support for the LGBTQ+ community with nationwide campaigns and football leagues set up for members of the community. The Premier League are partnered with the Kick It Out company and every December the Premier League partnerships with Stonewall to run the Rainbow Laces campaign.

Amateur Football leagues such as the GFSN National League (Gay Football Supporters Network) are all set up to encourage football fans from the LGBTQ+ community to still play the game without fear of abuse. There are football teams like Stonewall F.C. who don’t compete in the GFSN but instead takes part in the Middlesex County League. This is because people from our community shouldn’t have to create a new variation of the game to feel apart of it, our sexuality does not determine our skill.

Homophobia is not such a big issue in the women variation of the game with statistics showing in last years Women’s World Cup there were around 41 female players or coaches who are openly gay or bisexual. This statistic is astounding compared to the male’s World Cup equivalent which took place in 2018 that had zero LGBTQ+ representation in any of the nations squads or coaching staff.

So with all this support put in place for LGBTQ+ individuals in the game, why is the males game riddled with controversy just because of being who you are?

What we can do to kick out homophobia

Despite the FA working hard to eradicate homophobic abuse during the last couple of years with campaigns such as Rainbow Laces, homosexuality is still a taboo subject. Perhaps adding rainbow pitch flags, LED boards, substitute boards and captain armbands won’t encourage the public to have a conversation it may just put us as a target.

We fully support these campaigns but we feel the focus should purely be on the discussions and education of players and supporters to focus on how impactful homophobic abuse can be rather than using it as an advertising scheme. By adding rainbow colours on boards for two weeks are not enough, These sort of methods only really succumb the community to stereotypes.

If you want an example we suggest you read the comments to the Rainbow Laces Premier League announcement on Twitter:

Football needs to find an alternative way to tackle homophobia. Research needs to be conducted, publications need to share stories of influential people discussing these issues and an open conversation needs to be made.

We were inspired this year watching Sky Sports have documentaries and shows dedicated to raising awareness for mental health. Influential people from the game openly discussing their battles and journey without the fear of being judged or feeling vulnerable. This was all because of the Premier League’s ‘Heads Up‘ February campaign that was created to raise awareness and encouraging conversation around mental health.

This is something we would want to see during the ‘Rainbow Laces‘ campaign. Large sports broadcasters could invite former footballers and analysts to discuss the importance of equality in sports for the LGBTQ+ community and what we can do to make a positive difference.

Discussions like these need to happen. We need to explore the fundamentals as to why it hasn’t happened yet? Why is there so much controversy about your sexuality? Why is this even a news story? An example is this video clip sourced from Football Daily on Twitter:

Homophobia will not go away overnight or by plastering rainbows across all the stadiums but that is something sadly we can never change. People will always find ways to disagree, get offended and will not accept change to the way they perceive the sport they love.

Justin Fashanu

Although this does not mean there hasn’t been gay footballers in the past. Let us tell you about the very first professional footballer who came out as gay. His name is Justin Fashanu and his story sadly shows how badly the football community can react.

On the 22nd October 1990 Justin Fashanu became the first professional footballer to come out as gay. This was a huge shock to the footballing world and his brother, fellow professional footballer John Fashanu described Justin as an ‘outcast’. Even Justin’s manager at the time, footballing legend Brian Clough described Justin as “bloodypoof.” When Justin was the cover story for the July 1991 edition of Gay Times he revealed that no football clubs offered him a contract since coming out as gay.

This is astonishing considering just ten years earlier he was the first black footballer to have been bought for £1,000,000 when he moved to Nottingham Forest. Sadly after his career plummeted due to being gay Justin moved to America where he was accused of sexual assault and he feared due to his homosexuality he would be unfairly sentenced so instead decide to move back to England and hang himself. Justin was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London. 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.”

Justin Fashanu

Justin was wrongly accused saying in the suicide note the sex was consensual and today we honour the first homosexual male footballer who had to suffer to help others openly be who they are. 

We shall always remember Justin’s heroic story to choose his sexuality over his career. Thankfully in 2020, Fashanu was honoured with being inducted into National Football Museum Hall of Fame.

Justin’s niece Amal set up the Justin Fashanu Foundation in honour of her uncles bravery. This charity’s aim is to tackle discrimination in sports. Racism, homophobia and abusing somebody’s mental health are parts of the game that need to be addressed. This charity helps the football community battle back and helps give struggling footballs the right guidance and support. The Sun reported that the anonymous footballer is being supported by this foundation.

What happened to Justin is horrible and nobody should ever endure the same journey. Justin will forever be a trailblazer and the first to fight for equality and acceptance. Thankfully his heroics inspired many other male footballers to come out in the game too.

Here is a link from a Sportmob story listing famous footballers who have come out as gay.

You are not a fan if you are homophobic

Sadly there is not many noticeable names in that list for the English football crowds to recognise. Footballers from past and present have come out and said that English crowds are the most rowdy and opinionated in the world and sadly can be the most insulting. Homophobic or racist chants are all way too regular even in todays game.

We as a community still get insulted, tormented and threatened on a daily basis just because of who we fancy. In football even on the 1st February 2020, two West Ham United fans were arrested in London Stadium by the police for directing homophobic chants towards Brighton & Hove Albion fans during a Premier League Match.

Chelsea also banned Manchester United fans from entering their stadium in February 2020 after they were caught chanting homophobic abuse. You can click the link to view the statement by Chelsea here.

Fans can be the 12th man at times but they can also be the downside of your clubs reputation by tarnishing it by being vocal with old-fashioned ignorant views. Please be aware of what you say on and off the pitch. Social media can be the downside for many people as it gives people freedom to say what they want and hide behind a screen. This is where the highest amount of homophobic abuse is shared and sadly the offenders are never accounted for.

Just remember you may not be seen but you are heard and your strong opinions can cause great offence to vulnerable people. Please think twice before positing anything fuelled from hatred or abuse because it will not only reflect bad on you but the club you supposedly support.

We will never walk alone

We as a footballing community need to do better and be better by supporting every professional footballer and fan by supporting them for who they are.

Their sexuality does not determine their ability or their success. By judging anybody by who they love is discriminatory and fixing us into outdated gender stereotypes.

If you don’t believe homophobia still exists in the game, we just reccomend you read the comments to this Twitter post about a rainbow corner flag in the Bayern Munich stadium.

Football fans perceptions won’t change until they see somebody they relate to or consider a role-model be open about his sexuality. They will see that his sexuality does not define who he is and won’t change the impact he has one the pitch.

There are over 4,000 Premier League players over the years and not a single person has come out as gay during their playing days out of fear. These prejudice beliefs are very harming for somebody who feels they can’t be accepted or will be a target for abuse just for being who they are.

The footballing world is ready to take a forward step to support any gay footballer with amazing charities and guidance teams there to help them. Clubs and footballers have also said they would fully support any teammate if they came out as gay. Troy Deeney footballer and captain for Watford also said to Sky he believes:

“There is probably one gay or bisexual player in every football team.”

Troy Deeney

If this is to believed within the footballing community then why has nobody came out? Quite frankly it’s because nobody wants to be the first. People sadly still don’t believe we have move forward since the tragic story of Justin Fashanu that happened 30 years ago.

All we can do is hope that this isn’t such a controversial topic going forward. Football has evolved, sadly not all the fans have too.

Football is a big part of so many peoples lives no matter there gender, sexuality or race. There passion for the support doesn’t depend on their background and isn’t dictated by who they love.

We hope anybody reading this takes notice and wants change for equal representation within male football as much as we do.

The Premier League is the most watched sports league in the world. It is broadcasted in 212 territories in 643 million homes with a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people.

Think about the worldwide influence and impact somebody can make just by being who they are.

If the anonymous footballer is reading this article or for any sportsman afraid of peoples reactions for being gay. We just wanted to inform you that here at Proudly we support you and there are so many others who will be inspired and proud of your heroic honesty.

We hope that one day football will be a sport that isn’t riddled with controversy or hatred. As a big fan of the sport ourselves, we are always disheartened to hear the abuse made by some people that are unprovoked and unacceptable.

Football is a team sport and that isn’t just for the squad. Everybody should be welcome to support who they want to and feel accepted. We must unite to help battle homophobia in football. This is because when we all come together and show support, football really becomes ‘the beautiful game.’

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