The intoxicated game of sexuality and football

PREVIEW:

The dark truth behind football’s deep-rooted homophobia.

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Football has always had a rather grandiose view of itself – as well as entertaining billions across the globe, the sport has prided itself on its charitable exertions and political-peace-making abilities. Such achievements are not to be scoffed at, yet for many in this country and thousands more around the world, the reality is that football is still a deeply anachronistic sport where homophobia is allowed to fester and abominable stereotypes concerning homosexuality are allowed to prosper when they would be reviled in other areas of society.

This deeply antiquated matter has long since been eradicated in sports which garner less devotion and fewer column inches than the beautiful game, and as incongruous as it may sound, football’s inauspicious ways are encouraging social exclusion and the sanctification of bullying, while making the lives of many honourable people considerably tougher to bare.

The unabashed manner in which supporters ridicule players, officials and fellow fans with offensive chants about sexuality is something we have all grown accustom to. It is a trifle disconcerting, however, that these actions have continued despite the plethora of vitriolic campaigns, which have been initiated at the behest of the authorities who have desperately fought to eradicate such evil prejudices from the game.

The Justin Campaign is the most high profile of these initiatives and was founded after the tragic suicide of Justin Fashanu in 1998. Ten years after his death, though, Justin was still the only professional footballer in the world to have disclosed that he was gay, although former France international, Olivier Rouyer courageously announced that he too was homosexual later that year. It was hoped that Rouyer’s fortitude would help to instigate a more solicitous approach from fans towards openly gay footballers, while helping to relieve homophobia from its insidious effects. Sadly, three years on, the situation has worsened and there appears to be no antidote to football’s most poisonous problem.

Despite this, there are still those who fight indefatigably and assiduously to try and make football, and the world, a better place. There is now an array of clubs who actively promote their pro-gay commitments, with many, like the South East Eagles (SEE), attempting to extinguish the gay-equals-camp stereotype.

Ricardo Contaleza, who co-founded the SEE in 2006, believes sport should be an inclusive recreation, which provides people of all sexualities, races and abilities with the same pleasure and enjoyment.

“Football should be something which enables people to forget about life’s protracted privations,” said the 35-year-old. “Yes, it’s great to have rivalry and it’s brilliant when there’s banter, but when that sort of thing becomes personal and offensive, football doesn’t serve its purpose which is to make people happy.

“We founded the South East Eagles to provide gay men and others with the opportunity to play football in a peaceful and harmonious environment. The club has been so successful that we now have two full squads and play at least four league matches a fortnight.”

Tommy Curran

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