Standort: / Meldung: "Homophobia in soccer"

Steve Crilley

God, what's happening in the world! A reality check on the web.

4. 6. 2016 - 14:28

Homophobia in soccer

Ahead of Euro 2016, is the culture of football changing towards becoming more inclusive?

Hear the Saturday Reality Check: Rendez-vous with France 2016.

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It's just under a week to go and all eyes will be on France as the country hosts the best of European soccer. At the moment, Paris and its surrounding areas are struggling to cope with flooding as the banks of the River Seine reach their highest levels in over 30 years. In the meantime, organisers are pressing ahead with putting the finishing touches to the stadiums, fan zones, everything that goes into hosting a major festival of football. However, I guess, the biggest worry on people's minds currently is the terrorist threat.

It's just six months since Paris was trying to cope with that series of coordinated attacks. 130 people were killed, 89 at the theatre. Three explosions occurred near the country's national sports stadium, the Stade de France, with the target there being football fans.

Apart from the skills and personalities that we are going to hear no end of, over the next couple of weeks, there are some very interesting talking points in the world of football. For example, how what happens on the terraces acts as a kind of barometer for wider social attitudes; especially when it comes to tolerance, inclusion and homophobia.

Dr Jamie Cleland at Loughborough University in the UK, has being studying homophobia and masculinity for a number of years. In fact much of his research is communicated (as he says) through the lens of sport with a focus on social deviance, racism, sexuality and homophobia. And far from the terraces erupting into chants of abuse these days, he seems to suggest that stadiums (in western Europe anyway) are holding some surprises that are a far cry from the bad old days of 1980s testosterone based football attitudes.

Steve Crilley: Tell us about what you have found in your social attitude surveys as regards football and homophobia?

Jamie Cleland: The research that I have conducted is based around fans that have gone to matches and fans who engage in online discussions. And what I’ve found is a change towards cultural contexts towards football. Back in the late 1980s, when we had this high homophobic period towards the presence of AIDS amongst gay men, this was also reflected in attitudes in football. And yes, there are people today, who still hold homophobic views, but the vast majority of people would support any gay player who decided to come out.

That said, there is still a lot of secrecy surrounding gay football players in particular. Why are there so few players that are prepared to come out in football?

High homophobic behavior is often said to be the reason why players don’t come out. But actually I would suggest that it has more to do with the internal culture of football. It is the agents of players, the clubs, maybe a national association, maybe in some cases some team mates. Certain players like Philipp Lahm, who have gone on record to say that if a team mate of theirs came to them and said that they would like to come out, then he would tell them not to. But there are also cases of team mates in football, who would be widely supportive of a gay player. I think fans are often characterized as homophobic but we don’t often hear about this internal culture of football and I think that is where questions could be asked.

As far as chanting in the soccer stadiums is concerned, do gay players still hear abuse from fans in the terraces?

We have a couple of gay players playing across the world. For example, we have Robbie Rogers playing for LA Galaxy in the US and we have Anton Hysén playing in Sweden. There are probably a number of closeted figures and there are probably a number of gay players known only within the internal world of football but the court of secrecy there is probably a good thing. When Thomas Hitzlsperger came out in 2014, he said that he didn’t fear the fans, what he feared was the reaction by the media.

What about FIFA and in particular UEFA as we head around to the UEFA soccer championships in France. What more could they do to be more welcoming to gay players?

If we think about the previous president of FIFA Sepp Blatter and his comments about gay people travelling to Qatar to watch the 2022 world cup there. He suggested that they should refrain from any sort of activity. That highlights to me the international culture of football. I think there is a wall of silence by governing associations towards sexuality and I would like to see these organizations, internationally and nationally, saying clearly that they would support any player who decided to come out.