Homosexuality in association football

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Homophobia has been widespread in association football throughout the world. Journalist Matt Williams stated that being a gay professional player in football is still a taboo,[1] which journalist Simon Barnes has said will never change.[2] In February 2013, football magazine When Saturday Comes described homosexuality as a "continuing taboo" in the sport.[3] John Amaechi, the first NBA player to come out, has blamed football's "toxic" culture for the lack of openly gay players,[4] while Clarke Carlisle has called for more education to be given to players to combat homophobia.[5]

History[edit]

Brazil[edit]

Richarlyson was named on Brazilian television as a homosexual by the manager of a rival team. When Richarlyson undertook legal action, the complaint was thrown out by the judge, who stated "football was a virile masculine sport and not a homosexual one."[6]

Bulgaria[edit]

In 2006, PFC Levski Sofia president Todor Batkov felt it acceptable to call referee Mike Riley a "British homosexual", following Riley's controversial sending off of Cedric Bardon during the UEFA Cup quarterfinal game against Schalke 04.[7][8]

Denmark[edit]

Anders Lindegaard is one of the few footballers to have spoken out against the intolerance of homosexuality in football and the absence of openly gay players from the professional game. In a 2012 blog entry the Manchester United goalkeeper wrote:

As a footballer I think first and foremost that a homosexual colleague is afraid of the reception he could get from the fans. My impression is that the players would not have a problem accepting a homosexual. Homosexuality in football is a taboo subject. The atmosphere on the pitch and in the stands is tough. The mechanisms are primitive, and it is often expressed through a classic stereotype that a real man should be brave, strong and aggressive. And it is not the image that a football fan associates with a gay person. The problem for me is that a lot of football fans are stuck in a time of intolerance that does not deserve to be compared with modern society's development in the last decades. While the rest of the world has been more liberal, civilised and less prejudiced, the world of football remains stuck in the past when it comes to tolerance. Homosexuals are in need of a hero. They are in need of someone who dares to stand up for their sexuality.[9]

England[edit]

Casey Stoney, who captained the England women's team, is a lesbian

The prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell joined a Football Association campaign against homophobia in football,[10] but later left stating the organisation does not take the matter seriously.[11]

The gay rights group Stonewall published a report in August 2009 which described English football as "institutionally homophobic."[12]

Even heterosexual players, such as Graeme Le Saux and Sol Campbell, have been the victim of homophobic abuse; Le Saux by fellow player Robbie Fowler,[13] and Campbell by opposing supporters.[14]

The Gay Football Supporters Network was founded in 1989 to campaign for gay rights in English football, and it currently organises the GFSN National League, a league consisting of gay teams. Stonewall Football Club is currently Britain's highest ranking gay football team, are on the verge of going semi-professional.[citation needed]

In August, 2010, Hope Powell, the coach of the England women's team, was named in 68th place on The Independent newspaper's Pink List of influential lesbian and gay people in the UK.[15]

In December 2011, a Southampton fan was banned for three years for homophobic chanting.[16]

German player Thomas Hitzlsperger stated in January 2014 that he thought it would be a long time before there was an openly gay player in the English Premier League.[17] John Ruddy later stated that openly gay players would be supported in England.[18] Later that month it was revealed that Liam Davis, a non-league player with Gainsborough Trinity, has been out for four years; he is the country's only openly gay semi-professional player.[19][20]

In February 2014 it was revealed that only 11 of the Premier League's 20 teams, and only 17 of the Football League's 72 teams, had joined the 'Football v Homophobia' campaign.[21]

Casey Stoney, captain of the England women's team, came out in February 2014.[22]

In April 2014 Colin Kazim-Richards was found guilty of making a homophobic gesture at Brighton fans.[23]

In August 2014 Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were accused of sending each other racist, sexist and homophobic text messages. Moody left his job as sporting director of Crystal Palace as a result.[24] Mackay apologised for the texts.[25] The League Manager's Association defended Mackay, claiming that the texts were merely "banter"; the LMA had to later apologise for this as well.[26][27] Mackay later denied being racist, sexist or homophobic.[28]

Justin Fashanu[edit]

Justin Fashanu, older brother of fellow footballer John Fashanu, was the first professional footballer to come out as gay,[13] after he agreed to an exclusive with The Sun tabloid newspaper on 22 October 1990.[29] Fashanu claimed to have had an affair with a married Conservative MP who he first met in a London gay bar.[30] A week later, John Fashanu publicly distanced himself from his brother, describing Justin as an "outcast",[31] while Justin's manager Brian Clough famously described him as a "bloody poof."[13]

Fashanu was interviewed for the July 1991 cover story of Gay Times, and Fashanu revealed that no club had offered him a full-time contract since the story first appeared.[32]

In the morning of 3 May 1998, he was found hanged in a deserted lock-up garage he had broken into, in Shoreditch, London, after visiting Chariots Roman Spa, a local gay sauna.[33] 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."[34]

France[edit]

Olivier Rouyer came out after retiring as a player and coach.[13][35][36]

A gay amateur team operates in Paris under the name Paris Foot Gay. The club's highest profile supporter from within the professional game has been former France national football team player Vikash Dhorasoo (who is heterosexual)[37] whilst a number of leading French professional clubs have signed their charter against homophobia.[38] The club ran into controversy in 2009 however when an amateur side Creteil Bebel refused to play them due to the "principles" of Paris Foot Gay.[39]

The issue returned to the spotlight in 2010 when amateur FC Chooz refused to register Yoann Lemaire, who had been with the club for 14 years, due to him being gay as they claimed it might lead to "trouble" with his teammates.[40]

"A bunch of faggots is what you have in French football. There are so many homosexual players there, they always provoke you, they touch your thighs, your bum, to see if you will give some kind of signal. I feel disgusted when a homosexual shares the same shower and stares at one's bum with desire, and even gets emotional when you are naked."

— Former Argentine international Eduardo Berizzo did not enjoy his experience at Olympique de Marseille.[41]

Germany[edit]

Former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay after his retirement

The Hamburger SV (HSV) player de:Heinz Bonn (1947–1991) was the first Bundesliga player to be publicly known as being gay, but only after his death. He played for HSV from 1970 to 1973. He was murdered in his flat in Hannover on 5 December 1991, apparently by a male prostitute, according to police investigators, although the crime has never been solved. The historian Werner Skrentny has said at the time Bonn was playing, journalists had little interest in the private lives of footballers and it would have been unthinkable for him to come out.[42] Today, HSV has is own official LGBT fan club. Blue Pride was founded in 2006. It was renamed Volksparkjunxx in 2012.[43]

Marcus Urban, born 1971, played with the East German national youth football team and as an amateur in the second division club Rot-Weiß Erfurt. From the age of 13, he had been hot-housed at a specialist sports boarding school in Erfurt but at the age of 20, in 1991, when he was about to become a professional footballer, he gave up the sport. He came out to friends and family in 1994, and in 2007 publicly spoke to the media about his homosexuality and the difficulties that gay footballers experience. He said that the pressure of having to pretend to be something he wasn't 24 hours a day was too much for him. He became widely known after a biography titled Versteckspieler: Die Geschichte des schwulen Fußballers Marcus Urban ('Hidden Player: the story of the gay footballer Marcus Urban') was published in 2008.[44][45]

Urban is now a spokesperson and campaigner on diversity issues in sport and the workplace. He advises the German Olympic Sports Confederation and the Sports Committee of the German Federal Parliament, as well as businesses and non-profit institutions.[46][47]

In December 2006, Rund magazine published an interview done over a two-year period with two gay footballers living secret lives. One was married and said his wife did not know of his sexual orientation nor realise he was involved in an intimate relationship with his childhood friend. The other often brought a female friend to social events.[48]

In March 2010, former manager Rudi Assauer said that "If a player came to me and said he was gay I would say to him: 'You have shown courage'. But then I would tell him to find something else to do. That's because those who out themselves always end up busted by it, ridiculed by their fellow players and by people in the stands. We should spare them these witch hunts."[49]

On 8 January 2014 Thomas Hitzlsperger, who had retired from professional football in September 2013, announced that he was gay.[50] Before coming out, in September 2012, Hitzlsperger had publicly spoken about players coming out.[51] In September 2014 he said that he believed the sport was tackling homophobia.[52]

Netherlands[edit]

In April 2009, former Dordrecht'90 striker John de Bever married his manager and friend Kees Stevens. De Bever played at the 1996 FIFA Futsal World Championship[53] and was named World Futsal player of the year in 1997.[54]

Norway[edit]

Thomas Berling retired from professional football after coming out in 2000, citing widespread homophobia in the football community as the reason.[55]

Several female players have come out as homosexual, including Bente Nordby and Linda Medalen.[56]

In June 2015, a Bærum SK player was given a straight red card for calling his Sandnes Ulf opponent "gay" in a Norwegian First Division match.[57]

In October 2016, Stabæk Fotball became the first European club to host a pride parade before their home fixture against Sarpsborg 08. Since then, a parade has been held before one of the team's home fixtures every season.[58]

South Africa[edit]

Eudy Simelane, who played for the South Africa women's national football team, was an openly lesbian player who was raped and murdered.[59]

Spain[edit]

The first gay and lesbian football supporters' group to be officially accepted by a Spanish club was founded in February 2009, and supports FC Barcelona.[60]

A popular football chant in Spanish stadiums is "maricón", which translates as "faggot."[60]

Spanish women's international Laura del Río is a lesbian.[61]

Sweden[edit]

Anton Hysén, son of former Sweden international Glenn Hysén, came out in March 2011 as gay whilst playing for Utsiktens BK, then a Swedish football Division 2 side.[62][63]

Turkey[edit]

Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ was a referee with the Turkey Football Federation for 13 years, but was sacked from this position due to his homosexuality. The Trabzon Board of Referees and the Turkish Football Association decided that he was not eligible for the role as he was previously excused from the military service for being homosexual. The Board of Referees came to this conclusion by upholding the private statue of the association, which states that people who do not complete their military duties due to a mental illness (including homosexuality) are not eligible to be a referee, although normally homosexuality is not considered as such by the Turkish constitution.[64]

One of Turkey's famous football commentators, Erman Toroğlu, argued that he should not be given his referee position back due to the professional reasons such as the possibility for making wrong decisions related to his homosexuality.[65]

In an interview with the Turkish journalist Canan Danyıldız, one of the famous Turkish football managers, Yılmaz Vural, was asked about the presence of LGBT people in Turkish football. He said that although he has never witnessed any homosexual interaction in the locker rooms, he knows that there exist gay football players in the Turkish League. He added that he does not believe homosexuality inhibits the talents of the players and that everyone should be free to live their personal lives the way that they want to. He finalized his words by saying that gay Turkish football players can never come out of the closet since everyone knows about the case of the former referee Dinçdağ.[66]

Another important interview about LGBT people in Turkish Football was held between the journalist Elif Korap and the famous former football player and present football commentator Rıdvan Dilmen. When he was asked whether or not he knew of any gay Turkish football players, his answer was straightforward: "Of course, as there are in any other profession." Dilmen criticized other people in the Turkish football industry for not admitting the presence of LGBT people, since they are afraid of being considered as homosexual as well. Although Dilmen said that he does not approve the discrimination against the LGBT people in the Turkish football, on contrary, he argued that he would still disinherit his own kid for being gay once he was reminded about a negative comment he made during an interview in 1989.[67]

United States and Canada[edit]

Former MLS player David Testo, having been released by Montreal Impact the previous month, affirmed he was gay in an interview on with the French Canadian division of Radio Canada that was published on November 10, 2011.[68]

On February 15, 2013, midfielder Robbie Rogers, who had been released by Leeds United a few weeks earlier, came out after announcing his retirement from professional football.[69] Rogers later stated that being openly gay was "impossible" in the sport.[70] He has since returned to football, signing a "multi-year" contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy.[71] Rogers stated in December 2013 that he had not received any contact from other, secretly, gay players.[72]

List of gay footballers[edit]

Name Nationality Career Date of coming out Notes & references
Justin Fashanu  England 1978–1997 1990 [13]
Thomas Hitzlsperger  Germany 2001–2013 2014 [50]
Anton Hysén  Sweden 2008– 2011 [62]
Robbie Rogers  United States 2005–2017 2013 [69]
Olivier Rouyer  France 1973–1990 2008 [36]
David Testo  United States 2003–2011 2011 [68]
Collin Martin  United States 2013– 2018 [73]

Further reading[edit]

  • Beasley, Neil (2016) Football's Coming Out: Life as a Gay Fan and Player. [London]: Floodlit Dreams Ltd. ISBN 978-0992658564
  • Magrath, Rory (2016) Inclusive Masculinities in Contemporary Football: Men in the Beautiful Game. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 978-1138653610
  • Rogers, Robbie; Marcus, Eric (2014) Coming Out to Play. London: The Robson Press. ISBN 978-1849547208

In German[edit]

  • Blaschke, Ronny (2008) Versteckspieler: Die Geschichte des schwulen Fußballers Marcus Urban. Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt. ISBN 978-3895336119
  • Endemann, Martin (ed.), et al. (2015) Zurück am Tatort Stadion: Diskriminierung und Antidiskriminierung in Fußball-Fankulturen. Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt. ISBN 978-3730701317
  • Kosmann, Marianne (ed.) (2011) Fußball und der die das Andere: Ergebnisse aus einem Lehrforschungsprojekt. Freiburg: Centaurus Verlag & Media UG. ISBN 978-3862260508
  • Leibfried, Dirk; Erb, Andreas (2011) Das Schweigen der Männer: Homosexualität im deutschen Fußball. Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt. ISBN 978-3895338151
  • Rohlwing, Christoph(2015) Homosexualität im deutschen Profifußball: Schwulenfreie Zone Fußballplatz?. Baden-Baden: Tectum-Verlag. ISBN 978-3828835962
  • Walther-Ahrens, Tanja (2011) Seitenwechsel: Coming-Out im Fußball. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus. ISBN 978-3579066998

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Simon Barnes (6 October 2006). "Football destined to remain the last bastion of homophobia - that's the straight, naked truth". London: The Times. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  3. ^ Colin Crummy (28 February 2013). "The continuing taboo of homosexuality in football". When Saturday Comes.
  4. ^ "John Amaechi: Football 'toxic' for gay people and minorities". BBC Sport. 8 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Clarke Carlisle wants more education to combat homophobia". BBC Sport. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
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  8. ^ "The life of Riley... red cards and all". 20 Aug 2008.
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  53. ^ John de BeverFIFA competition record (archive)
  54. ^ Uit de kast zonder roze handtasje - De Ondernemer (in Dutch)
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  66. ^ http://m.posta.com.tr/PostaKarnaval/haberdetay/-Gay-futbolcular-var--ama-ayri-muamele-yapmam--/213795
  67. ^ http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2004/11/21/pazar/apaz.html
  68. ^ a b "David Testo affirme son homosexualité" [David Testo states his homosexuality] (in French). CBC.ca. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  69. ^ a b "Robbie Rogers: Ex-Leeds United and USA winger reveals he is gay". BBC Sport. 15 February 2013.
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  73. ^ Collin Martin [@martcw12] (29 June 2018). "Tonight my team, @MNUFC , is having their Pride night. It's an important night for me — I'll be announcing that I am an openly gay player in Major League Soccer. #soccerforall" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 June 2018 – via Twitter.