We live in a tolerant country, a country where people are judged on their individual merits. Not in Great Britain will you be ostracised, discriminated against or abused on the basis of your colour, creed or sexual preference. I know this is true because I am frequently being told it is. No need to look at those pesky hate crime statistics, this is a happy land, populated by enlightened individuals ready to embrace those different from themselves. And to prove our tolerance, we have collectively decided it’s time for a gay footballer.
Thing is though, not one of the pro-footballers in this country appear prepared to slate our desire for a ‘poster boy.’ What spoilsports, why can’t one of them just admit their love of Lady GaGa and ‘doing brunch’ with their ‘gal pals?’ We want a gay footballer and if we have to drag them kicking and screaming out of the closet ourselves then that’s what we’ll bloody well do. Those poor repressed footballers, if only they could see how understanding we would be if they just gave us the opportunity. Pink kits, Madonna’s back catalogue on the PA, their every whim would be catered for. It would be just wonderful.
Or actually, come to think of it maybe it would be pathetic.
Maybe this growing desire for someone to break rank and admit that they are both a professional footballer and a practising homosexual is based not on displaying our tolerance but our sheer fucking nosiness.
A high profile gay player would of course be subject to the usual sub-human levels of vitriol from the stands and the keyboard warriors on the internet – but remember we are a tolerant country, honest. They may very well face being isolated from the dressing room ‘banter’, but more than that they would be forever labelled as a ‘gay footballer’ not a footballer. Never again just a footballer. Their entire career would have a little asterisk next to it – *did well for a gay.
Patronising minorities is a national pastime. If it were an Olympic sport we would be assured of at least one gold come London 2012. Take for example the high profile female assistant referee, Sian Massey. Every decision she gets correct is greeted with a chorus of ‘ooh didn’t she do well to spot that offside there, well done luv’ – I am paraphrasing, just. A gay player could expect similar levels of patronising drivel – ‘good pass, considering what he likes to do with his genitals in the privacy of his own home.’
There are people who choose to define their existence with their sexuality, whether it’s the uber camp stylings of Alan Carr or the ‘I shag loads of birds, honest’ Uni Lad squad is irrelevant. They have chosen to use their sexuality as an indicator of how they live their lives. They have chosen to display their sexuality in an overt manner. It has not been forced upon them. A gay footballer would not be afforded such choice.
So the question is, if you were a professional footballer who also happened to be gay, would you come out? Maybe you could handle the knuckle-draggers screaming abuse from the terraces or committing a variety of sins against grammar online. Maybe you couldn’t give the tiniest of shits what your team-mates think of your lifestyle choices. But if you were the kind of person for whom their sexuality is a part rather than the entirety of your existence, could you really cope with being no-longer a footballer but a ‘gay footballer’ – patronised at every turn, every personal achievement undermined? Your first goal would not be your first goal but instead be the first goal scored by a gay, same with your first own goal, winners medal etc. etc.
Max Clifford claims he knows of current top level professionals whom he has advised to keep their sexuality secret. Now hopefully the majority of us are intelligent enough to disregard most of what that self-publicising buffoon spouts, but much as it hurts to admit, he’s probably right. Most of us would rather that what happens (or doesn’t happen) in our bedrooms remains between those intimately involved, although if hooking up a webcam and broadcasting the details to everyone watching is your ‘thing’ that’s fine too.
The thought that by revealing your sexual preferences – be they in regards to gender, whips, asphyxiation, whatever floats your boat – would mean you would be front page on every paper in the land would probably terrify most people. Add in the knowledge you would be the victim of mass verbal abuse, probably lose the trust of colleagues and change the definition of who you are, then it is no wonder that if there are any gay footballers they’re certainly not letting us know.
We claim we are ready for a gay footballer, when really all we want is to pick up our morning paper and read ‘football star in GAY sex romp.’
Safer in the closet? Sadly it seems so.
This article originally appeared on the sadly departed Football Project