(giddy City fans celebrate the decision to replace Stuart Pearce with Lily Savage)
Manchester City recently signed up to take part in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions program ; the former Maine Road residents have pledged to recruit gay staff and eliminate homophobic language in the workplace. The Mirror’s headline read “MAN ON MAN CITY”, by the way. Given that the office in question is the football pitch, I wish them luck, as does the Guardian’s Sam Delaney.
It used to be simple to work out who was who at the football. If you drank beer, beat people up and urinated down your mate’s leg on the terraces at half time, you were one of the lads. If you wore expensive designer woollens, drank wine and ate olives, you were gay and had got lost on the way to a West End show. These days, since football got gentrified and everyone turned a bit middle class, the lines have blurred. At Chelsea on a Saturday, they can’t move for actors, writers and choreographers, who cram into Stamford Bridge cheek by jowl to watch the Premiership champions. Before the game, they meet up at SW3’s gastropubs and bistros to share bruschetta and petit chablis. Some of them might be gay; the majority aren’t. But they engage in a lifestyle that old-fashioned football fans would have associated with being homosexual.
The majority of football fans these days consider themselves tolerant, liberal-minded blokes. But they sing the odd illiberal chant in the spirit of intimidating opposition players and maximising their side’s chances of winning. Almost no topic is taboo in pursuit of this aim, and there’s a certain amount of mischief involved. Throwing gay taunts from the stands at a self-important, straight player like Sol Campbell may have more impact on his game than it would on a genuinely gay man. Where’s the fun in saying to someone, “You’re gay!” if they can turn round and respond, “You’re quite right! I am! As gay as a baby goose! Rock on!”
Still, the message from Man City and Stonewall is that, however ironic you think you’re being, chanting homophobic songs doesn’t tally with being a self-proclaimed liberal. Football is an integral part of our national culture: if it is permeated by casual homophobia, what does that say about our society?
Nwankwo Kanu : He’s tall, black, he’s had a heart attack. And now you can add to the list, he’s scored 4 goals in his four games of the season, 3 of ’em coming in Portsmouth’s thoroughly dominant, 4-0 win at Middlesbrough on Monday.