Steven Davies, the England international cricketer, who chose on Monday to publicly embrace his homosexuality, does so in an environment of mature acceptence. His England teammates reacted to the news from the 23-year-old wicketkeeper, which came out prior to this winter’s Ashes Tour, with a response hoped for but not expected in football.
Indeed, football, from terrace homophobia that is the norm not the exception, to a top top-down culture that embraces discrimination at its very core, is a world away from an environment in which a top international player feels safe to publicly declare his sexuality.
Macho, aggressive, and unaccepting, one wonders whether the football community – fans, players, administrators – can ever accept a player for what he his, and not his sexual orientation. After all, when the sport’s leading figure Sepp Blatter reacted to criticism of Qatar’s selection to host the 2022 World Cup, his was one of childish sniggering. Qatar remains a country where it is illegal to be gay.
“I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities,” said Blatter of those concerned about the treatment of gay fans at the 2022 tournament. The FIFA President later issued a weak apology, stating that it was not his “intention” to discriminate against homosexual fans.
Davies’ bravery in coming out with his career ahead is not in the act in but understanding that prejudice is still deeply ingrained in society, especially in the confines of sporting dressing rooms. Yet cricket’s collective reaction to Davies’ statement today appears a metaphorical ‘so what’? It is impossible to imagine a similarly mature response from football fans, let alone fellow players or administrators.
Indeed, in the more than 30 years since Justin Fashanu – the first professional to come out – was driven to his suicide football has seemingly achieved little. There is little serious attempt to do so from within the game, save for an FA sponsored video last year. That the governing body was unable to attract leading footballers to take part in the video paints just as vivid a picture.
Gordon Taylor, president of the Professional Footballers Association, admitted last year that tackling homophobia is simply “not very high on the agenda.” And when Croatian FA President Vlatko Markovic claimed that “luckily, only normal people play football” few in football’s glitterati offered the criticism his words deserved.
“While I’m a president of the Croatian Football Federation, there will be no homosexuals playing in the national team”, added Markovic mirroring a culture in which discrimination is not only accepted but sponsored by the game’s authorities.
Homophobic language is endemic, not only in administration, but on the terraces and wider football community too. Tottenham Hotspur supporters’ disgraceful degradation of Sol Campbell, and Arsenal fans of Ashley Cole are just two examples of homosexuality continually being used as a pejorative by supporters.
When Michael Becker, Michael Ballack’s agent, described the German national side as a “bunch of gays” after the team’s elimination from World Cup 2010 in South Africa he aped the words of a thousand supporters and some players too. After all, Rio Ferdinand, lauded as a leading figure in anti-violence and racism movements in the game was moved to call DJ Chris Moyles a “faggot” live on Radio 1.
Manchester United supporters are not immune to this culture either, as witnessed by the childish internet gossip about John O’Shea’s sexuality up to the defender’s marriage last summer.
These events bring into question whether the football world could both accept an active gay player in its midst and deal with the potential consequences, including media intrusion, supporter ridicule, and peer anger.
Yet the Rugby community seemingly accepted Gareth Thomas’ coming out last year, with both support and maturity. Rugby League’s refusal to tolerate abuse on or off the field of Welsh international Thomas set an example FIFA simply will not.
Some are swimming against the tide of homophobia though. In reaction to Becker’s comments Ballack’s club Bayer Leverkusen refuted the remarks. “At Bayer Leverkusen we have absolutely no resentment towards homosexuals,” it said in a statement last July.
Meanwhile Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez called on gay colleagues to come out, pointing to a “gay vice chancellor and a gay mayor of Berlin” as evidence that “footballers should confess themselves as well.”
Words though are not enough if football is to stamp out homophobia as it has tried – although too often failed – to eliminate racism. “There is no place in the game for homophobic abuse, ” said the FA two years ago. The governining body has done little to make good on its words though.
Until it does and the wider football community grows with its leaders, Davies’ ‘bravery’ will simply not be matched in football – the game loved by fans of all orientation.
18 thoughts on “Cricket accepts Davies; football wouldn’t”
After dismissing women’s rights a couple of weeks ago, Rant now tackles homosexuality
Epic thread in the making
First person (apart from me) to mention the “bloody PC brigade” gets a I Regret Voting Tory In The Last Election badge
In all honesty what does a footballers sexuality have to do with that person as a footballer, fine the team mates may be a little wary in the Bath after the game but …
Justin Fashanu came out in 1990 and as far as I know the only player to do so.
Until men get over themselves and realise that just because a footballer is gay does not mean they want to have sex with all men, football will never accept this issue. Rugby and cricket is generally played by intelligent men, the same unfortunately can’t be said for the average footballer! Hope it changes and the chants remain about the skill or lack of in the stands!
There’s clearly gay footballers and other gay cricketers and rugby players. But the ignorant and puerile majority of ‘football lads’ (including players) will prevent them coming out for another 10 years at least.
The only way it could happen was if it was someone with near universal respect, say Giggs. Only then could it be accepted by the sport and eventually the fans.
That not one player would back the FA’s campaign speaks volumes about the fact that homophobia is rife within the sport – you can’t just blame the morons in the stands.
So that’s why kissing your team “mates” has been banned from football….hmmmmmmm and I thought it was time stealing.
FIFA does have our sensitive souls guarded well.
Football culture is stuck in a time warp of ‘ladishness’, part of its working class roots. So all the lads are expected to have the same aspirations: flash cars (probably two or three), a circus of willing & sexy girls,partying,an obsession with Play Station, drinking (too much), gambling on the horses, glam holidays, playing the latest rapper, house with Greek columns, swimming pool & high security system, in a trendy area. Nearly all workng class lads buy into this culture & it must be very diificult to go against the grain. Ony a few, like Eric,have the strength of character to make their own rules.
Let’s face it, most fans, given the chance, would buy into the same culture too. By definition lads don’t tolerate gays or anthing highbrow.
You can’t eradicate homophobia from the terraces until you’ve eradicated it from everyday culture
If regulars on this site can’t take a serious topic seriously then its probably best not to bother at all. Have to say I found some of the posts here offensive and I’ve deleted them. My point in this article, proven by the childish nature of the comments that I have removed, its that moronic football fans aren’t ready to grow up.
I have been asked to open this back up for a debate. We’ll see whether that happens…
tbf the lad has massive bollocks….i really dont think it would matter one bit if a bloke in the premiership came out as gay
rumours over the years have included, O’shea, Upson, Taylor, Cole, Campbell etc…..you will always get the pisstaking but its not a problem being gay and its not a big thing anymore imo…i think its disgraceful players dont come out, as its cowardly to not do so as i dont think anyone really cares anymore who’s sexuality is what,….yes the odd idiot might, but sticks and stones and all that…..
Should I, or shouldn’t I…???
Your coming out Alf
What I said wasn’t offensive FFS
Censorship = shit thread.
dannii – use of the words “benders, pufters, fudge packers, shirt lifters ….” and so on even if it was supposed to be ‘ironic’ in some way didn’t help. First time I’ve censored a thread – except where somebody’s threatened me with physical violence(!) – in years.
I also hear that Carrick is gay….. I did hear it from Graham Norton and Dale Winton so not 100% sure….
Ed is right here. Football is in the dark ages in so many things. The last fortnight has proved it, Gattuso’s headbutt of Joe Jordan & Ashley Cole shooting someone at Chelsea’s ground. Not to mention the Rooney incident and the Luiz farce last night.
The sport needs strong governance and it simply hasn’t got it. People will switch off soon and watch something else. I follow United, but pay little attention to anything else in the game.
In the NFL one of the players was in court for assaulting someone so they banned him for 4 games – that is the quarter of their season! The image of the game is tarnished by that kind of behaviour and they know the impact sportsmen have on young people especially.
People in this country would get over it pretty quickly if more players came out. Can’t say the same for elsewhere in Europe (Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe) where they can barely handle the issue of racism and it’s still a big deal for them to see black players on the pitch.