No doubt inspired by press coverage of John Amaechi’s self-outing, the Guardian blogging Portsmouth goalkeeper David James asks, “in every other entertainment industry we have gay stars. Why should football be different?”
No one’s ever come out to me during my 18 years in football. But I must say I’ve seen and heard some strange things, remarks that could suggest someone is gay or bisexual. I’ve heard drunken footballers egging each other on to do certain things for a certain amount of money. Maybe it’s routine stuff, part and parcel of what goes on in every pub team across the country, but it made me wonder why they would be talking about it if they were straight.
That’s just me speculating, but speculation is half the fear factor around coming out. Gossip is a brutal thing and footballers are no better than anyone else. In the old days we used to invent rumours for a laugh and then watch them spread. We’d say, ‘Did you know so and so is gay? No, he isn’t really, but it would make a great rumour.’ Even now rumours about certain players fly round by text message. ‘Do you know who it is?’ But there’s no certainty in it, it’s just old wives gassing over the fence.
Much of it is about banter, an excuse to wind an opponent up on the field. Like Robbie Fowler parting his bum cheeks to annoy Graeme Le Saux. I don’t believe Robbie is homophobic, I think he was just being childish. But it was blown out of all proportion. The media are like a pack of snarling dogs – they want to get their teeth into something and the thought of gay footballers is a major bone for them, if you’ll excuse the pun.
A senior executive in football said to me he wished all the gay footballers would come out so we could just get on with it. I find that view refreshing. In marketing terms they could make a fortune. Just imagine, football’s first gay couple playing for rival teams, arguing about offside decisions over the dinner table. They would do Hello! magazine, chatshows, advertisements. Would it upset players being naked in the changing room together? What about the after-hours highly homoerotic activities – indulging in football threesomes and roastings? Would football culture ever be the same again?
Down the years I could easily have been accused of being gay. I was a bit different – I modelled for Giorgio Armani, sparking rumours over which designers wanted to get into my pants; I practised yoga; I read, I paint. I’ve been to The Boardwalk – a gay club in Manchester – although I was with my wife at the time, and I’ve even driven past the local gay dogging spot in Devon – there were a couple of guys in tight black shorts and vests looking like Village People try-outs.
Apparently, James’ fee for the piece is being donated to Stonewall. Next time, perhaps he can just cut a check and forget about the editorial.
A 109th minute strike from Michael Ballack broke a 1-1 tie between Blackburn and Chelsea earlier today, sending the latter to an FA Cup final meeting with Manchester United on May 19. Incredibly, said match will occur 10 days after the two sides battle at Stamford Bridge, a game that might determine the Premiership title (Chelsea currently trail by 3 points). And both clubs are still on course for a potential Champions League final meeting on May 23.