Sports stars such as Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas, English cricketer Steven Davies and Cork hurler Donal Óg Cusack have all come out as gay. The one thing in football that is certainly taboo. But why?
Flying to the Barcelona – Madrid tie recently, I read an interesting article about Swedish footballer Anton Hysén, son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysén, had come out as an openly gay professional footballer. “A club might be interested in me and then the coach might change his mind if he finds out I’m gay, but that is his problem not mine.” said the 20-year old defender. This is almost unheard of in football.
Many will remember Justin Fashanu. Britain’s first black, million-pound player with a talented eye for goal. This week is the thirteenth anniversary of the death of the former Norwich City, Notts Forest and Torquay United striker. He publicly came out as a homosexual in 1990. A tabloid newspaper ran the front page headline £1m Football Star: I AM GAY . His brother, the fomer Wimbledon star John Fashanu, allegedly disowned him publicly calling him an “outcast”. No doubt Justin’s latter years were somewhat troubled but personal problems with former team-mates and family certainly could have contributed to his suicide in 1998. He was the only openly homosexual professional in the sport until recently.
But being gay and being a professional is still very taboo in the game we love. It shouldn’t be. “If I perform as a footballer, then I do not think it matters if I like men or women.” says Hysén. The Swede himself talked about the lack of openly gay players, saying “where the hell is everyone else?”. Clubs and organizations have long been involved in tackling the issues such as racism and hooliganism in football. Organizations such as Kick It Out also focus on homophobia in the stands and the dug-outs. Which hopefully one day itself will become taboo in our beautiful game.